Tag Archives: Services

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To know or not to know, that is the question

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Many organizations seek to use risk management to create added value, but their risk processes often have weaknesses or faults which affect the outcome. Some of them are not aware of these weaknesses, while others know very well what they are.

A Persian proverb says, “The person who doesn’t know, and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know, will be ignorant forever.” It is clearly better to know our process weaknesses than not to know them, but how can we tackle our lack of knowledge? Here are three steps:

1. Where is our process weak?

The first step in tackling hidden faults is to find them. How can we find unknowns? French philosopher René Descartes recommended being skeptical about everything, which involves the following actions:

Analyze outcomes.Findareas in which expected targets have not been met, then explore whether there are root causes hiding in our processes that are leading to problems in performance. We may also find hidden opportunities in our processes that could improve outcomes.

Revalidate infrastructures.Take a fresh look at processes, resourcing, software tools, reporting and other elements of supporting infrastructure, seeking bottlenecks or areas where improvements are possible.

2. Can we tackle the weakness?

When we find a fault, we need to know whether our organization has the necessary resources to deal with it. The following questions can help us decide whether we can effectively respond to process weaknesses that we’ve discovered:

Reliable inputs. Are we currently providing reliable and precise inputs to the risk process? Can we significantly improve the quality of these inputs? Invalid inputs won’t help and might even hinder performance.

For instance, if we want to move from qualitative risk assessment to using quantitative schedule risk analysis, we will need a reliable baseline project schedule. Without a suitable schedule, introducing quantitative risk analysis won’t improve the process and might even reduce the level of accuracy available from qualitative assessment.

Level of precision. Can precision be improved cost-effectively? Is it worth it? How much precision do we need in order to make good risk-based decisions? For example, if we can predict risk exposure to the nearest $1,000 but our decision processes are working with precision levels of $100,000, the additional precision is not helpful.

Personnel competence. Upgrading risk processes may introduce new tools and techniques for our staff to use. For example, using quantitative risk analysis requires specialist expertise with simulation tools. Do personnel have the required knowledge, skills and competence? If not, can we provide the necessary training to equip them?

3. Should we tackle the weakness?

Once we find a hidden fault in our risk processes that we can address, we shouldn’t always rush to fix it. Sometimes we make things worse by acting without fully considering the outcome of our actions. At other times, the cost of fixing a process weakness can be excessively high. We need to determine whether we need to remove the hidden fault, or whether we should simply protect against its effects:

Fix it. Sometimes it is appropriate to tackle weaknesses in the risk process and decrease the number of unwelcome outcomes.

Leave it. However, sometimes we can decide to continue as we are, consciously accepting a known weakness, but focusing instead on improving and upgrading infrastructures needed to cope with its effects in future.

If we’re serious about creating and protecting value through risk management, we have to seek out hidden faults that cause problems in our risk processes. Then we must work out if we have what it takes to address weaknesses, and finally decide which ones to tackle and which to accept. Only then can we take action to improve our approach to risk management.

It’s always better to know than not to know. The harder question is what to do (if anything) when we find a weakness!

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Governance: Plain and simple

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Defining governance can be difficult. It is a broad concept with many influences. Volunteers are more familiar with management practices than they are with governance.

Some organizations provide a hefty leadership manual to describe the board’s role. Others reduce it to a couple of pages with a dozen or so directives; for instance, the board is expected to raise funds, the board must adopt a budget, meetings are held monthly, etc.

Hats off to the organization that can describe governance in a few sentences. Keeping it simple may avoid drifting from governance to management.

Here’s clear-cut language to communicate the purpose of the board of directors:

The board is the governing body responsible for (1) strategy, (2) policy, and (3) oversight.

Strategy: Setting the strategic direction and vision. Advancing the organization’s multi-year strategic plan.

Policy: Creating policies (internal) and positions (external) to benefit members and advance the mission.

Oversight: Overseeing resource allocation, including adoption of the annual budget, and evaluating performance of programs, products, and services.

Board orientation will explain expectations and the tools available to support governance.

Governance-Management Model

To convey the distinction between the board’s role of governance and staff responsibilities for management, organizations have a policy statement, such as this:

The association has adopted a model of management and governance to ensure the volunteer leadership and executive director work best together.

The board of directors will focus on governance in accordance with the laws and governing documents. The officers and board members will direct efforts to advance the mission and strategic goals, serve and grow the membership, protect and build resources, and set a visionary direction.

The executive director, as authorized in the bylaws and through agreement or contract, is responsible for the administration and management of the organization, including staffing, physical office, protection of assets and other responsibilities associated with a corporate CEO.

While the board shall govern, the executive director shall manage, they work together to best position and serve the organization and its membership.

With exception of the executive director, volunteer leaders will not direct the staff, comment on performance, or expand their duties.

If role confusion occurs, go back to the basics as described herein.

For Bob’s new 2021 Board Orientation Workbook, please click here.

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10 simple reasons companies keep failing at strategic execution

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Whenever I hear strategy being discussed, someone invariably says that strategies fail because of poor execution. Other times, people say that execution is more important than strategy. But you could also argue that working hard and efficiently on something that is not part of an overarching plan does not create the best outcomes. If you Google the phrase, “strategies fail because of…,” the top answer is “poor implementation.”

In their book “The Balanced Scorecard,” authors David Norton and Robert Kaplan note that 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully. While that seems a little high, the message is clear: this low success rate has caused many leaders to abandon strategy as a tool. They believe they need to focus all their attention on execution without having a strategic platform since most plans fail.

If 90% of strategic planning fails, is it the plan or the execution of the plan that is poor? The truth is that most of the time, we cannot honestly answer that question. You cannot pick one or the other, because they are completely connected, blended, and shared. An organization cannot realize its potential if there is a good plan with poor execution or the reverse, a poor plan with good execution.

It is important to look at strategy and execution together. Accordingly, here are 10 simple reasons companies keep failing at strategic execution:

No. 1: Strategy is treated like an event, not a system.

Most companies are familiar with the annual strategy event — a multi-day process where the executives get together to create the strategy for the organization. Sometimes there are guest speakers, followed by nice dinners mixing in some high-quality bottles of wine.

The group typically leaves the event with several strategic objectives, but little time is spent identifying if these objectives connect with the future of their industry or the internal capabilities to deliver on the objectives.

No. 2: Strategy is reserved for the executive elite.

The strategic objectives agreed on at the strategy event typically remain in the executive team’s control. In some cases, the executives believe the strategy is too complex for employees to grasp or over the head of the rest of the company to integrate into organization-wide operations.

No. 3: Strategic plans are stagnant and inflexible — while markets, consumers, and employees change rapidly.

Many companies engage large, expensive strategic planning consulting firms to lead the strategy process. These consulting organizations rely heavily on their ability to conduct comprehensive data analysis that is supposed to support the strategy. After six months, the company receives a spectacularly developed PowerPoint deck with pages of research and analysis with several strategic objectives.

Like the strategy event, the goal of these types of programs is to generate a strategic plan, not to execute one. As the consulting company was doing research and the executives were waiting for access to information, the customer and market continued to change. The plans that result from traditional strategic planning are not created to be implemented in an agile fashion. Just think of the countless number of strategic plans that became obsolete and rendered useless when COVID-19 began to spread.

No. 4: Strategies are not connected to the organization’s potential or culture.

Strategic planning and strategic plans generally focus on generating financial outcomes. This is understandable, considering positive cash flow is the fuel that enables companies to realize their potential. However, the reason strategic plans are created is to pursue something meaningful for the organization and its employees.

This meaning motivates and energizes employees and keeps them focused when there are distractions. Regrettably, leaders fail to build a plan that specifically leverages and ties to the company’s cause or mission. This oversight tends to negatively impact the entire organization, as the plan neither connects with nor considers the company’s cause and culture.

No. 5: Strategic Focus is not shared or visible.

When completing a vision or mission statement, the first thing company executives do is post the mission statement, both internally and externally. However, when leaders develop a strategic focus, there is little done to socialize it or make it visible for others to see.

If strategic execution is done effectively, there are clear strategic focus statements that are visible and adopted into daily meetings and conversations. This is when strategic execution becomes part of the culture.

No. 6: Strategies are not set up with clear measurements and outcomes.

Most companies use some form of KPI or other goal measurement tool. Generally, these KPIs are not developed directly in connection with the strategic platform. In order to maximize the effectiveness of strategic execution, Strategic Outcomes should be developed that set specific, measurable outcomes that align with the Strategic Focus.

No. 7: Strategies are not created to connect with the actions necessary to succeed.

In the traditional strategic planning process, executives meet and outline several strategic objectives. These objectives are then rolled out or emailed to the rest of the company.

The people that are responsible for executing on the strategies do not realize how it impacts their job and are unable to connect specific actions to the outcomes and objectives. This lack of connection between strategic development and strategic actions reduces the effectiveness of strategic execution.

No. 8: The people executing the strategy do not understand their work is strategically significant.

Inside of every human being is a desire to realize earned success — that is, accomplishing something that is hard. To keep things easy and simple, company leaders fail to challenge employees to pursue and accomplish significant outcomes. Employees want to know their work has meaning. Helping employees understand where they and their jobs fit into the strategic platform is essential to achieving positive results.

No. 9: Strategic Outcomes are not tracked and shared in a structured, repeatable system.

When executives go away for their annual strategy retreat, the strategies that come out of the event typically reside in a PowerPoint deck and are discussed at the highest levels of the company after the retreat. These items are sometimes discussed at a quarterly strategy update meeting within the Executive Committee.

The strategies typically are not integrated into the operations of the company through a shared reporting structure. If something is worth pursuing, it is worth tracking and sharing.

No. 10: There is no intentional system where strategies become part of the organization’s operations through regular communication, thus failing to embed the strategies in the culture.

While reports are important, the purpose of reports is to generate solution-based conversations supporting agile execution and behavioral alignment. Reports are used to enhance communication, leading to improved strategic actions. As a result, internal communications on strategic execution and outcomes need to be established. The strategy needs to be integrated into sales and production meetings. It must be repeatedly discussed so that the strategic execution becomes part of the culture.

When leaders fail in creating a strategic execution platform, it leads to a lack of trust in the organization, and employees look at strategy as another corporate initiative that does not create an opportunity to achieve success. Remember, employees have an innate desire to succeed and accomplish something that has meaning. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to avoid the pitfalls above and build an organization where the culture is based on a foundation of strategic execution.

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Businesses plan for the future despite a tremendously difficult 2020

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The year behind us was tremendously difficult. The obstacles we faced because of COVID-19 left most of us on edge, exhausted, and seeking solutions to unprecedented problems. The only obvious benefit of the pandemic is that it happened when it did, not 10, five, or even three years ago.

Because of ongoing digital transformation across the globe, most economies were able to respond. Businesses stripped of their ability to operate face-to-face jumped online. Some of these efforts were smoother than others, but most soon navigated through the clumsiness and established streamlined remote-based operational processes.

Through it all, business got done, and enterprise moved on. But what lessons were learned? We recently heard from more than 500 business and technology leaders as part of our “Transforming the Norm” effort — which became a comprehensive review of how business has transformed throughout the past year-plus and where we might be headed in the near term.

As with most times of trouble, leaders must mitigate their own fears through levity and putting their team’s, customers’ and organization’s goals ahead of all else. This means adjusting the desires and plans for the organization and recalibrating in response to the external stimulus.

For most leaders, their organizations’ wish lists remain long — most hope to innovate through advancements in technology and infrastructure. What they’d planned for 2020 was primarily derailed. Survival became the priority. This meant mainly focusing on and serving their users — inside the organization and out.

What do these users want and value? That seems entirely open to debate.

What customers deem valuable

Most of the leaders we spoke with say they are close to their customers and understand their desires. However, most of these leaders don’t actually measure user sentiment or can’t do so.

The fact is, 395 people we spoke with “believe” they understand what their customers want. The truth is only about 25 people of the more than 500 we spoke with admitted that they don’t know what their customers want regarding service and support nor how they want to be communicated with.

One example of this is regarding self-service. Most of the business leaders we spoke with believe user self-service (the ability for people to serve themselves when they need support) will increase over the next two years even though less than half of these organizations can currently meet perceived customer desire for self-sufficiency.

Likewise, only 29% of leaders say their organizations have everything to accommodate this demand if users want self-service. The caveat, of course, is that most organizations don’t measure customer wants and desires.

Customer engagement

Communicating with customers remains pivotal, especially now as the business world’s remote nature has changed how business is getting done. Fifty-four percent of those we spoke to said that email is the most important engagement channel for customers to engage with their company. The telephone is nearly as popular (53%), and in-person communication remains a strong engagement channel, with 40% citing these as essential engagements.

Thirty-five percent of leaders said live chat is the most critical channel for engaging customers.

Organizational size plays a part in communication. Sixty-two percent within companies with 50 to 99 employees saying email is the most critical engagement channel for how their customers engage with them; 48% of respondents working in companies with more than 500 employees said the same.

Day-to-day change here to stay

It’s no secret that organizations have dramatically changed the way they operated in 2020. According to the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, from January to December 2019, of the 32.6 million people in employment in the U.K., 8.7 million reported having worked from home, which is less than 30%.

Fast-forward to April 2020, and the figure increased to more than 46%, a jump of almost 20%. In the light of these statistics, we wanted to find out how effectively organizations are dealing with remote working, what positives and negatives they’ve encountered, and look closer at the repercussions for the service desk and IT support.

Organizations that operated through in-person office engagement have been forced to re-engineer. Seventy-two percent said that they could work effectively as an organization remotely, despite the fact they’d never done so previously. Some sectors found it easier than others to cope. For example, 74% of those in the IT sector say remote working is a success, compared to 33% of those working in HR, a sector that thrived face-to-face.

Organizations under three years old (63% work effectively) or between 15 and 20 years old (66% work effectively) were the most successful at pivoting. However, some of the barriers to the changes in the way we now work is a lack of adequate technology for the situation, poor employee technology knowledge and skills, and the need to invest in new technology.

Despite all of this, staggeringly but unsurprisingly, 94% of organizations reported changes to their business’ day-to-day operations in 2020. With a 20% jump in the number of people working remotely from December 2019 to April 2020, this is likely the reason for drastic organizational changes. With this in mind, it’s great for the future of business to see that six in 10 companies say remote working saves them money.


We’ve been through a great deal of disruption. The digital transformation is in full bloom. We thought it wasn’t possible at the beginning of 2020, but it has been addressed by nearly every business that strives to survive.

While many of us may have feared the changes we faced, personal and professional survival always finds a way. We’re vastly farther ahead technologically than we were a year ago, and we’ve all probably matured much more than the previous 12 months might suggest. Of course, with all things learned, there is still room for additional growth along the way.

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Boost from beyond: Business advice from a corporate intuitive

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Chicago-based corporate thought-leader and intuitive Dr. Therese Rowley has spent time at the top of the corporate ladder as management consultant and strategic planner for some of the biggest companies in the U.S., including Kearney Inc. and AT&T. Armed with an MBA and Ph.D. among other degrees and certifications from prestigious institutions, she now uses her learned skills and inborn talents to coach business leaders, CEOs and entrepreneurs as they seem to break through barriers seen and unseen toward remarkable success.

She has written blogs for HuffPost, Medium and ChicagoNow.com about conscious business and intuitive leadership. Her media interviews include Dr. Mehmet Oz, Chicago’s NBC and ABC affiliates, and WLS and WGN Radio.

I sat down with Dr. Rowley on the eve of this new year to find out what 2021 may have in store as well as what we can learn from the troubling times we are currently experiencing. For the sake of terminology, “Reading” is capitalized throughout.

As you have known and seen your intuitive skills in action since you were young, how did you come to the notion of using your gifts as a tool for business, and integrating more conscious awareness into the corridors of corporate America?

DR. ROWLEY: When I took a college course in organizational psychology, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It is a discipline that studies, honors and enhances the human dynamic in business. As I used that discipline to facilitate large scale business change, I became aware that if I used my intuition to tune into the energy of a leader, a team or an organization, I would be more helpful in making space and skillful interventions for the emotional elements of the change process at the right time. That, in turn, would advance transformation rather than delay it.

When a facilitator of transformation, say for a business-wide technology implementation, ignores the human element or doesn’t deal skillfully with the emotions of the employees, those feelings come out sideways resulting in sabotage or other kinds of delays. I came to understand the facilitator as both the instrument of change and the lightning rod for the anger that advances the change process.

What is the reception you get from business associates you talk to about consciousness and its place in business and industry?

DR. ROWLEY: First, it depends upon geography. I lived in Boulder, Colorado, for a couple of years and then in the Bay Area for nine years, where mindfulness, intuition and meditation were researched and discussed in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. By the early 2000s these methods were inculcated into work.

Chicago, where I next moved, is about 10-15 years behind the West Coast in its experimentation and openness to the creative side of the brain. Thankfully, now there are only a few places left where personal awareness is not seen as a critical part of leadership. A leader’s ability to self-reflect, acknowledge the truth and learn from mistakes, represent basic skills these days. A decade ago, the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in California included businesses like Google and eBay CEOs on the same panel with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, a global spiritual leader and peace activist. By 2015 Google, Target and General Mills had mindfulness classes.

Having said that, it is only recently that more professionals know the term “intuitive coaching” in business. Two years ago, I told a gentleman I’d met at a reunion of a “Big Six” consulting firm where I worked many years ago, about my intuitive work. He said he understood, as he had six intuitives whose advice he used regularly. Those intuitives were working at a very basic level of prediction for his financial models’ success.

My work goes much deeper and is not as well understood. Some 98% of my clients are referred by other clients.

Has that changed over the years for you — say, from skepticism to wide open reception? If so, what do you think accounts for that?

DR. ROWLEY: We now have evidence through:

  • Quantum physics, which mathematically proves the existence of simultaneous universes and explains remote healing
  • Science of the brain, which now researches intuition
  • Near-death experience research and data, which speaks to the continuation of life “on the other side”

You have been very instrumental in helping individuals going through grief and pain, and children diagnosed with learning disorders. What part of your busy day would you say is devoted or focused on the corporate client or company mission?

DR. ROWLEY: Most of my day is corporate focused and 5-10% is parents (often professional or business leader client’s) who want me to help them better understand and support their children.

The reason that my work is primarily with business leaders is because after 30 years of working with leaders in facilitating enterprise-wide transformation, I have come to the conclusion that the consciousness of a business leader IS the consciousness of the business. No business can expand beyond its leader’s capacity to reach outside the paradigm or ecosystem in which the business was built, bring in new possibilities and then help the company’s employees make meaning of these possibilities for themselves and their stakeholders. (I’m currently writing a book on a Business Model of the Future, developed through my work over the last several years with the CEO of the Chicago YWCA that has successfully transformed a 140-year-old nonprofit to a new social enterprise-business model.)

Please describe some session examples of business leaders or entrepreneurs — some of the reasons they may have sought your advice and how you worked with them to resolve their concerns.

DR. ROWLEY: As an example, one of my clients is the CEO of a construction company. He gives me an address, and I can tell him what is going on with that company and its leaders, as well as the challenges he may encounter should he decide to do business with them. My intent is to advance my client’s understanding of himself and advance his development through intuitive data.

In one Reading, I said to this CEO, “Your gift is charisma, so you easily sell jobs based on how well the client likes you. You place a high value on relationship and approval. In this instance, (as I intuitively perceived the address and potential client company), this client will not like you. This decision-maker is focused on efficiencies and results. You became good at gaining the approval of others because you are afraid that you couldn’t meet objective expectations (and I tell him in greater detail about the source of this fear-based belief). If you practice (here I offer energetic exercises) so that you respect yourself more than only relying on someone liking or approving of you, this client will want to do business with you.”

That CEO worked with me in coaching over a year and said he credited the work we did together for the $11 million increase in revenue in a year.

The point of the Reading is to facilitate the leader’s development by showing the choices and power the client has to expand the relationship with his or her self; the potential to expand the business in question by attracting other kinds (and a higher volume) of clients.

How do you make your skills accessible to those heading up or working in businesses that could use your input? What types of questions or challenges might you best be able to help?

DR. ROWLEY: If it is a Reading for business leaders or professionals, it may start with a work challenge — whether it is about engagement in a potential merger/acquisition, new venture, new direction or choice point; it may be challenges with a business colleague or a professional choice. It could be about understanding others’ motives and the politics of a business process. Inevitably, the intuitive data will refer back to how the leader has drawn in this challenge, and his/her responsibility to do the human homework of personal development.

If the Reading is part of a business coaching call, I may go back and forth between the business’s energy and the leader(s)’ energy, regarding everything from business growth to potential executive hires to key vendor choices to why the business is not moving in the expected direction. I also offer strategic business insight and recommendations (as a business consultant vs. specific intuitive perception).

Are there some surprising success stories?

DR. ROWLEY: A board member who was blocking the way of the CEO who was my client, is one example. I did a very deep healing for that member. Shortly thereafter, she left the board. Two years later, she ran into the CEO and said shortly after she left the Board she got divorced, changed careers and is very happy.

Lee, a CFO of a large company, was being left out of meetings and didn’t know why. I read the field and said it had nothing to do with him personally, but he should create an exit strategy because what they were deciding to do would not work. The CFO left after six weeks and the company was in trouble about three months later.

Jim, a business owner of a niche company, top in its area, was going to form a joint venture with a company they had researched and liked. I Read the company and told them that the company was not as deeply expert in the area they were focused on; it would cost more than they anticipated to make up for the gap that would show up later after they dove into the joint venture. They did further investigation and confirmed the intuitive data. They backed out of the deal, saving tens of thousands of dollars.

What are some of the major pain points you are seeing in this area of your practice?

DR. ROWLEY: Business leaders have to become more intuitive to take advantage of a new marketplace whose barriers to entry in almost any industry are lower than ever. Due to technology disruption, there is too much data to use the slower, rational side of the brain. Leaders have to use their intuition and be aware of their beliefs about potential and possibilities in the unknown.

In other words, if they believe that things like pandemics and social movements are scary and very limiting, then they will not have access to their intuition so that they can become more innovative. Limitations are simply new design principles that can foster innovation. That is a belief that allows all businesses to expand, even in — and especially in — challenging times. Intuition, and therefore innovation, will not work when fear-based beliefs underpin decisions.

Also, traditional businesses that are not engaging their labor force when the talent supply is limited, are losing on many levels. Millennials are the largest consumer group in history since March 2016 and many of them are conscious consumers demanding that companies act on their values or else they won’t work for them. Companies have to become conscious about their leadership, their purpose and how to consciously and proactively operationalize their values with all stakeholders or they won’t survive.

Technology allows transparency that can move us from monolithic companies to the democratization of commerce where “conscious” business rules and wins.

Please take the pulse of the U.S., if not the planet. How would you describe these times from a “channeled” perspective?

DR. ROWLEY: We are moving as a collective toward greater consciousness; light through the body rather than by transcending the body. We are interpolating frequencies between physical and spiritual — it is rocking the planet on its axis as well as creating the context for individual shift in consciousness.

What can individuals do right now to learn to “tune in” to their own higher selves for the guidance they need?

DR. ROWLEY: Be quiet; be still; stay there; stay with curiosity. When the body resonates with “yes” or a sensation, voice or image that moves them, they will know it.

What keeps you up at night?

DR. ROWLEY: Thinking about how to support our culture in understanding that intuition is both gift and skill. And to create and grow more access points toward a developmental pathway so that children are no longer “misdiagnosed” as “learning disordered,” and adults don’t feel they are crazy because they are intuitively gifted or aware. We also need to make intuitive intelligence a critical leadership skill to take us to a sustainable world.

To find out more about Dr. Rowley and get in touch with her, go to thereserowley.com.

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Types of disability insurance businesses need to know about

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Disability insurance for business owners can be relatively in-depth, as there are many different types of coverage available to meet the many needs. The best way for you to understand your options is based on the size of your business. A small business owner is going to have different needs than a larger business.

Disability Insurance for Small Business Owners

It is often the case that a small business succeeds or fails based on the ability of the owner to run the business. Many times the owner truly is the business or at the very least the source of revenue. Below is a brief list of the types of disability insurance a small business owner could use to make sure the business survives in the event the owner is disabled.

Individual Disability Insurance: This policy is designed the replace your personal income in case you are too sick or hurt to work. In the case of a long-term disability, this is always step No. 1 for a small business owner. You have to take care of yourself before the business.

Overhead Expense: This policy helps make sure you have a business to come back to after you recover from a disability. It is designed to help with your deductible expenses like employee salaries, rent, utilities, and insurance premiums. Typically, this policy will reimburse your overhead expenses for up to two years. You will probably know whether or not you are going to recover from your disability within two years or have to sell the business.

Buy-Sell: If you have a partner, a disability buy-sell policy will make sure there is a plan in case one of you becomes permanently disabled.

Group LTD: If you want to provide disability insurance benefits for your employees this is the least expensive way to do so. This plan will usually cover 60% of salary up to $5,000 or $10,000 a month. The company can pay for this, or you can have the employees share in the cost.

Reducing Term: If you have a business loan, this policy will make the payments on that loan obligation should you ever become disabled.

The most important piece of the disability insurance puzzle is usually a personal policy to make sure your income is taken care of should you become too sick to work. Depending on the business, expenses can grow quickly if there is no revenue coming in. If you really are responsible for most of the revenue of the business, and individual disability insurance policy and an overhead expense policy are needed.

Disability Insurance for a Larger Business

Most companies offer a Group LTD policy for their employees. The typical language says that 60% of your salary is covered up to a specific monthly maximum benefit. The most common maximum is $10,000 in today’s marketplace. This coverage is the same policy for every full-time employee of the company from the receptionist to the CEO.

It is the most convenient way to offer every employee some income protection, but employees with larger incomes may need to secure a supplemental disability insurance policy to adequately protect their income.

Many LTD plans do not cover bonus or commission income and with a $10,000 monthly maximum, anybody who is making over $200,000 is under-insured. The only way to bring your actual income protection closer to 60% when you have a larger income is to purchase your own supplemental individual policy.

The last major issue with a Group LTD plan is benefits are received taxable during a claim if the company paid for the policy for the employees. People who are expecting a 60% income replacement tend to find out the real income replacement is closer to 40% after they have to pay taxes during the claim. Again, a supplemental disability insurance policy can help make up the difference.

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Why rules of order should guide and not rule

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Rules of order are essential to any governing body. They give structure and guidance where other governing documents may fall short. That does not mean we should put them on a pedestal and reference them for every action taken. Nor should they be referenced every time a motion needs to be made or hinder forward progress in this age of technology.

In speaking with a new director of a large nonprofit board, he told me about how nervous he was about his new role and making a great first impression at his first board meeting. He heard about rules of order and its benefits in a meeting and decided to purchase a copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the 12th edition. That is where the story took a sharp turn…

In purchasing the book, he thought it would help him be better prepared to conduct business at his first board meeting. On the contrary, it didn’t go as planned.

He told me, “Sitting down with the board that first meeting, I referenced it several times in the first couple of hours. It is fair to say that many of the other board members looked at me as if I had grown a second head. It was quite clear in my eagerness; I had missed the forest for the trees.”

Used effectively, rules of order are essential to any governing body. The following are appropriate uses and caveats:

Provides Structure: Rules of order provide structure and guidance where other governing documents don’t. That does not mean we should put them on a pedestal and reference them for every action taken during a meeting. Instead, they should make the meeting more efficient and not bog it down with complicated processes and procedures. Furthermore, they don’t need to be referenced every time a motion is made.

Adapts to Situations: Rules of Order should not hinder forward progress in this age of technology. Before the 12th edition of Robert’s Rules, for example, the rules on electronic meetings were minimal but now have been expanded. In considering all that has happened with the pandemic, organizations that were too closely tied to the Rules of Order became effectively hamstrung in conducting the organization’s business.

It could be argued that even with the enhancements in the 12th edition, the rules may still be too restrictive. Organizations should make a judgment call when to suspend the rules in an effort to operate efficiently during this time of uncertainty.

Convenient for Smaller Boards: In the United States, the average board size is about 15 directors. For this size, it is recommended to identify ways to enhance the organization through the use of rules of order.

A smaller board can use a less formal approach, which is acceptable to remain nimble and efficient. Not only will the use of rules of order make meetings more efficient, it will also allow for increased innovation at the board table. This innovation will stem from the efficiency of the meeting that allows for more time dedicated to strategic issues.

Necessary for Larger Boards: A large board, with greater than 25 directors, may very well benefit from more structure, like that provided in the rules of order. For example, large boards often struggle to control one or two loud voices. Using a stricter set of rules will allow for a more equitable opportunity for all voices to be heard and amplified.

To that very point, large boards that are strategically focused use the concept of breakout groups during the meetings. Using breakout sessions, either live or virtually (i.e. Zoom breakout rooms), can significantly enhance innovation and allow the other voices in the room to be heard.

All boards need to adopt an approach where the rules strengthen the organization and do not hinder positive progress. Keeping true to the intent of why parliamentary rules were designed can often be a boon to maintaining forward momentum, as they were developed to allow the minority to be heard and for progress to be made.

Educating the board on the reason why rules of order are important and how they can be utilized to make meetings more efficient will pay big dividends in the long run.

The most important element is to be consistent and have open conversations around what culture the board would like to have in place and what role parliamentary procedures should play in enhancing that culture. Use the rules as a reference when hard decisions need to be made and the reassurance of a tried and tested methodology will benefit the organization.

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A strategic plan dilemma: Organizational infrastructure

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A strategic plan guides the board, communicates value to members and empowers the staff. Most have three to six goals.

The dilemma is whether to include anything about the infrastructure in the plan. Infrastructure is internal, focused on governance and management. It would include technology investment, leadership pipeline, professional staffing, and financial resources.

Without infrastructure, the other goals cannot be advanced.


Some boards believe members are only interested in goals that communicate value. “They don’t care that we have a leadership pipeline and money in the bank.”

Other boards believe the community should know about the strengths of the organization. “We were founded 50 years ago; members should know about our structure and leadership as a part of the strategic plan.”

To include or not?

When it is included, it is often the last goal in the plan, purposely. The goals are intended to deliver value to the membership; for instance, professional development, community outreach and governmental relations.

The infrastructure goal might be titled “Organizational Excellence,” “World-Class Organization,” or “Sustainability.”

While the board may not insert structure and resources into the plan, it is important that directors realize their responsibility for oversight. For instance, the need to upgrade technology may necessitate multiyear funding. Creating a pipeline of future leaders will require initiatives.


Most groups include an infrastructure in their retreat discussions. But when communicating the strategic plan to members, they focus on the deliverable, value-added goals, leaving the infrastructure invisible or silent.

Others include it so members know the strengths and structure of a well-established organization.

Another approach is to promote only the goals, also called pillars of the organization. Then, promote the infrastructure distinctly.

Imagine the Greek Parthenon. The pillars represent the goals and priorities. They sit upon a solid base that demonstrates the infrastructure necessary to advance the goals.

“By positioning the organizational infrastructure as the foundation upon which other goals are built, leadership clearly sees and better understands its importance,” said Chris Hart IV, CEO at the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers.


Another quandary is whether membership is a goal or an outcome.

Associations and chambers rely heavily on recruitment and retention. The board may feel it is important to include a goal titled, “Membership Growth” or “Member Participation.”

However, those reading the strategic plan will judge its relevance and return on investment. Growing the membership may not resonate as ROI.

Position membership as an outcome. If the organization achieves its mission and goals, it will draw members without having to state it in the plan.

For Bob’s new 2021 Board Orientation Workbook, please click here.

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CES 2021: The year of staying home with gadgets

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As CES 2021 rolled out, it was not in Las Vegas. In fact, it was not anywhere in particular this year after more than a half-century of taking over the neon gaming mecca for four days of immersion in a veritable ocean of newfangled stuff and portentous technology. Last year, the event attracted 171,268 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors.

This year, the more subdued event brought in some 1,000 exhibitors and maybe 150,000 attendees. It was online-only and navigated through a tornado of tech talks and virtual kiosks. Still, there was news, analysis and plenty to talk about this year as the coronavirus continues to rage and a new administration takes over and changes some key commerce and trade policies.

For starters, retail sales revenue for the technology industry is expected to reach $461 billion in the U.S. this year, marking a 4.3% increase over last year — according to new surveys by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). As millions of Americans remain home and rely on tech to stay entertained, connected and healthy during the pandemic, streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will stand out in the tech sector in 2021.

“The pandemic has pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption — from our homes to our work to our doctor’s offices,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA’s president and CEO. “While the road to a full economic recovery is long and intertwined with a complex vaccine rollout, the tech industry’s ability to meet the moment during this crisis has been critical. I look forward to seeing the global tech community come together this week to share its vision for a reimagined future.”

Total spending on streaming services and software is projected to reach a record high of $112 billion in 2021 (11 percent growth over 2020). This follows 31% growth in 2020 over 2019.

Video: Exclusive content and cord-cutting are driving multiple subscriptions per household to push spending to $41 billion in 2021, up 15% over last year.

Audio: Music, audio book and podcast listening, with services including Apple Music and Pandora are expected to reach $10 billion in revenue, up 19% over last year.

Gaming: U.S. households are playing video games more than ever before, for entertainment or staying connected socially. CTA projects the video game software and services category will reach $47 billion in revenue this year, up 8% from 2020.

Gaming Consoles: The release of next-gen game consoles from Microsoft and Sony will continue to drive sales, as the supply chain catches up with consumer demand.

Televisions: Households channeled discretionary dollars into upgrading TVs in a record-setting year for shipments in 2020. CTA expects steady demand for displays in 2021 as TVs remain the centerpiece for entertainment in homes. Growth areas for TVs in 2021 include sets over 70-inches (3.3 million units, up 6%) and 8K Ultra High-Definition TVs (1.7 million units, up 300%).

Centered on Connections

Smartphones: Shipments will increase 4% to 161 million units, earning $73 billion in revenue (up 5% over last year), following a year of slight declines. Over 67 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021 (298% growth over last year for this nascent category) and generate $39 billion in revenue (a 218% jump), as consumer awareness of 5G grows and service is available in more locations across the country.

Laptops: 2020 was a record year for laptops (enterprise and consumer), with more families than ever working and learning from home. CTA expects laptop shipments will remain strong in 2021.

Wireless Audio: For the first time ever in 2020, total wireless headphone and earbud shipments surpassed wired headphones and earbuds. True wireless earbuds, including Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds, are driving growth (up 32%), representing $9.3 billion in revenue.

DIY Smart Home Products: With millions of Americans spending more time at home, safety and convenience upgrades are top of mind, driving DIY smart home products shipments to 99 million units in 2021 (up 9%). Category growth drivers include smart displays, smart doorbells and smart appliances.

On Health Tech

Connected Health: As more people monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms and more manage chronic conditions from home using devices such as smart thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors, shipments of connected health monitoring devices will grow to 14 million devices in 2021 (up 35%) and earn $845 million in revenue (up 34%). The entire health and fitness technology category, including smartwatches and fitness activity trackers, will increase 13% in 2021.

Electric Bikes: Included in CTA’s forecast for the first time, personal mobility options such as electric bikes will see growth as people remain wary of public transportation during the pandemic. In 2021, electric bikes will reach 1.6 million units, up 6%, and $2.6 billion in revenue, up 44%.

“Streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will push consumer tech forward in the year ahead as innovative technologies prove their resilience during challenging times,” said Rick Kowalski, director of industry analysis and business intelligence for CTA. “The industry’s ability to meet societal needs in a variety of circumstances will bring growth in 2021 as the world emerges from the pandemic.”

However, these forecasts and projections cannot account for unpredictable factors, such as pandemics or changes in trade laws, interest rates and federal policy.

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Who should absorb home office costs?

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If there’s been one bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the ability of employees to work from home. According to a new report by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, employees love working from home, and 77% of respondents say that even after COVID-19 is over, they would be happier if they could continue working from home.

However, the report also reveals that only 20 to 25% of companies pay or share the cost of home office equipment, furniture, internet, etc. And employees believe that companies should be paying more.

“Before the pandemic, working from home was perceived as a privilege — something a person chose to do; but now they don’t have a choice,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “Understandably, employees don’t feel they should have to go ‘out of pocket’ to cover new costs.”

The report also reveals that many employees are saving money by working at home. “While most are saving somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 a year, that savings doesn’t come in a lump sum they can spend on office furniture or technology.” (These savings are likely in transportation, clothing, and the cost of eating out.)

And there’s another factor that could explain why remote workers want help paying for their work-from-home necessities: the demographics of remote workers have changed. “Before the pandemic, it was mostly the older, more senior, higher-paid employees that were allowed to work from home,” Lister says. “Now, everyone’s doing it and those at the lower end of the wage scale are feeling the pinch.”

Plus, workers aren’t the only people saving money as the result of a remote workforce. Companies are saving money on utilities, security and cleaning personnel, snacks and various paper products (including toilet paper and paper towels) and some renters have even discontinued their leases. “I think people see how much money their employers are likely to save by reducing their real estate costs and some might feel they deserve a share,” Lister says.

Adam Gordon is the co-founder of PTO Genius, an HR tech platform that helps companies increase employee satisfaction and engagement. “Organizations provide employees the right supplies at the office so they can be engaged, happy and productive.” And he says that shouldn’t be any different if employees are forced to work from home. “After all, how can you expect an employee to do their best if they don’t have a functional computer or they’re spending 8 hours in a chair that doesn’t provide back support?”

Gordon points to a survey by Procurify that reveals 32% of professionals said they’d never worked at home prior to COVID-19. Understandably, they wouldn’t already have the tools needed to do so effectively. “Working from your couch or perched uncomfortably at your kitchen table gets old fast,” he says. “You want to ensure employees are both comfortable and productive, so providing employees with necessary tools is critical now more than ever.” Plus, there’s another bonus to helping employees set up a home office. “An organization that contributes to these set up costs sets an example that shows they care for their employees’ well-being.”

And Lister says that employers do feel that they should take responsibility for at least some of the home office costs. “Equipping people with necessary technology was a priority right out of the gate — without it, employees could not function.” But now, so many months into this new work arrangement — especially since there is no definite end in sight, she says they may need to increase their efforts. “Many, if not most, are realizing that an ergonomic chair and desk are important for employee health and productivity,” she says. “Working at the dining room table for eight or more hours a day is an invitation to repetitive stress and muscular skeletal injuries.”

According to research by Namely, 47% of employees say their monitors, laptops, and desks were being subsidized, and 41% felt that companies should also be paying for Wi-Fi. In addition, 11% thought ergonomic support was crucial.

“The issue of home-office reimbursements could become a legal problem if an employer doesn’t follow certain state and federal laws,” Gordon says. “In some states, including Massachusetts, Illinois, California and Montana, employers are legally required to reimburse their employees for certain business-related expenses that they pick up on the job, regardless of wage,” he explains. “Meanwhile, in every state, employers must reimburse minimum-wage workers for job-related expenses.”

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