Business & Economy
Stop Wasting Time in Meetings! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:31
Expert Offers Tips for Meetings that Get Things Done

Technology is constantly speeding up the pace of business: Decisions once delayed for weeks are now made in seconds thanks to internet communication. Computer analytics puts real-time market information at our fingertips.  Transactions can occur anywhere, any time.

Logic holds that businesses that can’t keep up will be left behind.

“Just to keep pace, businesses must develop organizational agility, and it’s absolutely critical if they want to do more than just survive,” says Mike Richardson, author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto: Accelerate Your Growth, Leverage Your Value, Beat Your Competition (

Organizational agility is being able to move quickly and decisively, and one of the biggest obstacles is unproductive, time-wasting meetings he says.

“They start late, run long, and don’t achieve much,” he says. “But meetings are the backbone of an agile business.”

He offers these tips for developing agile meetings with traction:

• Map your meeting: Create a standing agenda and a master spreadsheet with tabs relevant to each agenda item with the expected inputs, throughputs and outputs. That way, the meetings are easy for the chairman to run because everything is crystal clear.

• Set the mood: Set the tone for the energy level by playing a video or music. You can tell a story, read a quotation, or be unpredictable and create a surprise factor.

• Spark creativity: Frame the purpose of the meeting as a question: How do we best …? Questions get the human brain thinking more quickly.

• Document the action live: Instead of taking notes, editing them and distributing them afterward, save time by capturing everythingelectronically in real time. You can project action items for all to see during the meeting, and keep them in a master spreadsheet hosted on your server for easy access by all.

• Time-box everything: Meetings should last 45 minutes, from 5 after the hour to 10 minutes to the hour. Allot time for each agenda item and especially for presentations. Get people used to the fact that you will guillotine anything which runs over.When you challenge people to figure out how to get things done in the time allotted, you will be amazed at how they can.

• Leverage the wall-space: Wall space is one of the most underutilized assets in your business.  Have the standing agenda on the wall, creative problem-solving frameworks, your core values, key elements of your strategic plan, inspirational quotations, etc., all in a format large enough for you to refer to during the meeting.

• Generate input: Have everyone take a minute to write down an idea relevant to the agenda item. Go around the table and allow each person to share his or her idea, or break into pairs or triads to discuss the ideas and report back. (Remember to allot time for each step of the process.)

• Get fast consensus: Once the options are on the table, facilitate the group toward fast decisions with statements and questions like: “I’m leaning toward this …”; “Does anyone have a violent objection to that … ?”; “Can everyone get behind that?”; and then move them into fast action:“How would we best do that?”

“Agility is the ability to be constantly looking for opportunities to move forward toward goals while planning for problems,” Richardson says. “It’s being able to capitalize on fleeting opportunities, rebound from problems and make decisions on the turn of a dime.”

That doesn’t happen in businesses where executives and workers are bogged down by burdensome systems, procedures and time-wasting meetings stuck in minutiae, he says. Instead of shooting forward when they press on the gas, they go into a futile wheel$pin.

Creating agile meetings is one big step toward creating an agile organization which is in traction.

About Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson is president of Sherpa Alliance Inc., a management support business and a chair with Vistage International, a global collaborative of CEOs. He holds an MBA from London Business School and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Diego Business School. A former Shell Oil petroleum engineer and board member overseeing three automobile dealerships, he led the Aerospace Division of  Spirent PLC in Britain

Do Businesses Know What Their Customers Want? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 11:50
Research Shows 90% Do Not

What customers value most changes constantly, and the pace of change has increased exponentially with the economic recession, says marketing/management expert and best-selling author Jaynie L. Smith.

“The businesses who become relevant by addressing what customers really value at any given time will be the first ones out of the recession,” says Smith, whose newest book, Relevant Selling (, is now available.

“One year ago, people were looking for financial stability in companies they were purchasing from because of all of the business closings,” she says, citing surveys conducted by her company, Smart Advantage, Inc. “Now, on-time delivery outranks that because so many businesses cut back their inventory during the worst of the recession. With demand increasing, customers have more difficulty getting what they want on time.”

Smith’s company analyzed more than 150 customer surveys to learn why customers buy particular products or services from particular companies. It’s an essential practice for any business owner during any economic cycle, Smith says, but most don’t do it. Her analysis of 10 years of double-blind customer market research for more than 100 businesses revealed that, 90 percent of the time, most businesses do not know their customers’ top values. They are often shocked to learn what is at the top of the customers’ value list.

Smith offers these tips for getting to know your customers – and potential customers – so you can deliver what they want and adjust your sales and marketing message to become more relevant.

• Customers are usually looking for “how” things are sold, not “what.” For most products, there are any number of suppliers. If someone wants to buy a camera, a doorknob, a car, they can drive to the nearest store or order from the first company that pops up on Google. But they don’t. Why? Because there’s something else they value more than the product itself. It may be product durability, the company’s reputation for customer service, or safety features. “If you don’t value what you bring to the customer, they won’t value it either,” is Smith’s mantra.  Very few companies know how to effectively articulate what differentiates them, so price often becomes the tiebreaker.

• Understand that existing customers and prospects usually have different values. Smith’s company research analysis shows that 70 percent of the time, customers and prospective customers differ in what they most value. When that happens, your message to customers should be different than your message to prospects.  Very few companies make this distinction in sales and marketing messaging. Existing customers may have come to depend on your top-notch help desk. It’s what they’ve grown to value most about your company. Prospective customers haven’t yet used your help desk so they don’t know how essential this benefit is yet.

• Use what you learn. If you find customers most value speedy responses when they have a problem, and your customer service department is slow, then fix customer service. Make sure to tell the customer service employees that customers have rated fast response time as their top priority. When you’ve got stats you can brag about – brag away: “98 percent of customer calls are returned within 30 minutes; 2 percent within 1 hour.” Now you’ve used that information in two valuable ways: to make your company more relevant to customers, and to let customers know you’ve got what they want.

• Invest in disciplined customer research. Research data collection costs have gone down 30 to 35 percent in the past few years and can now be affordable to smaller companies.  Double-blind customer market research is the gold standard and well worth the expense, but it’s not feasible for all companies. However, even a small investment in research can reap huge returns. Some less expensive and free alternatives to find out what your customers want include sharing the expense with an industry association; partnering with an organization that needs the same information or a peer that doesn’t compete with you; hiring a college intern; or creating an online survey using a free basic service, such as Survey Monkey.

About Jaynie L. Smith

Jaynie L. Smith is CEO of Smart Advantage, Inc., a marketing/management consultancy whose clients range from mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies. She consults nationally and internationally with CEOs and executives to help them define their companies’ competitive advantages.  Her first book, “Creating Competitive Advantage” (Doubleday Currency; 2006), is in its 11th printing and is consistently ranked in the top 1-2 percent on for marketing and management books. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the New York Institute of Technology.

How to Be a Coupon Consumer – Without Getting Consumed By Coupons PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 19 March 2012 14:52
Expert Offers Tips for Easy Ways to Save
On Every Trip to the Market

More people than ever are clipping coupons for their supermarket trips, but they’re often not saving as much as they could, says Toni House, author of How to Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Bill to $85 Per Week – Or Less!.

"You can easily shave $5 to $20 off your weekly grocery budget with a minimal investment of time," says House. "Cutting your bill just $10 a week will save you $520 over the course of a year.

"Taking a couple of extra steps to ensure you can use all the coupons you clip will save you more money – and protect your investment of time in clipping them."

How can consumers take advantage of coupons without becoming consumed by them?

Let us count the ways!

• Learn different stores’ rules. Call the grocery stores that are convenient to you (near home OR work), ask these questions and write down the answers: Do you have double or triple coupon days? (If so, what are they?) Do you accept other stores’ coupons? Do you allow "stacking" coupons – using them on sale items?

• Seek coupons far and wide. The Sunday paper is always a good place to start, but most households also get coupons through direct mail. And you can find coupon deals at, and a host of other sites. If there are brand-name products you just have to have, try Googling the name and "coupon."

• Plan meals around your coupons. Say you have coupons for 30 cents off a box of pasta, half-off spaghetti sauce (a type you normally buy – not a pricey splurge!), buy-one, get-one canned mushrooms and $1 off a pound of ground chuck. Can you smell dinner simmering? For less than $4?

• Organize your coupons. An expandable folder, like you might use for taxes, is a convenient place to store coupons at home. You might organize it by product – frozen foods, snacks, meats, or by expiration date. If you’re going to do some meal planning around coupons, you might want a section for those. As you clip, sort the coupons immediately so you don’t end up with a big pile that never gets sorted or used. Clip the meal coupons together and drop them in either the meals section or, if you’re organizing by date, the date the first one is set to expire

• Save up to 30 to 50 percent with "shopping club" cards. Many supermarkets now offer "shopping clubs" that provide members with special in-store discounts. These are no-clipping-required coupons that never expire! Sign up for free and get a "membership" card that clips to your key ring. When the cashier swipes it, the discounts are applied to your grocery bill. Some stores have an associated website where you can log in while you’re planning your shopping list and see what discounts are available that week.

• Upload coupons directly onto your shopping club card. Stores that have a shopping club website may also post manufacturer and brand coupons there. Log into the site with your card ID number, then click on the coupons you want and they’ll load right onto your card! Instead of carrying coupons to the grocery story, you get your discounts when the cashier swipes your card.

• Organize your shopping club cards and coupons with your smart phone. If you shop at a lot of stores, you may be carrying around a lot of shopping club cards. Ditch the cards by loading them on a free club card organizer app available soon at You’ll also soon find a free coupon organizing app there. It will allow you to click on coupons online and load them onto your phone for the trip to the grocery store.

Planning ahead is the most effective way to use coupons. Since we know you would never dream of heading to the supermarket without a list -- because that’s a huge money waster – just match your coupons to your shopping list before you head out the door.

Be sure to check expiration dates, brand names and quantities on the coupon (if it says "8-ounce tub of lard," don’t grab the 24-ounce tub of lard!)

Imagine, if you save just $1 a week with coupons, you’ll have $52 extra at the end of the year. And then you can get that splurge spaghetti sauce – and the 24-ounce tub of lard!

About Toni House

Toni House has a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. "How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill" is her second "Savvy Shopping" book. Her first was "Save Your Money, Save Your Family." Find her money-saving blog tips at

Governor Quinn Announces Expanded Translation Services on State Employment Website PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 19 March 2012 14:42

Initiative Increases Access to Services for Job Seekers and Employers

CHICAGO – March 15, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced enhanced language translation services at the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s (IDES) website. The initiative makes information more accessible to individuals and businesses, helping them accomplish their goals more quickly.

Visitors to the IDES website can explore new career opportunities, obtain information to help build a business and access tips to aid in their job search. The translation effort converts English text on the IDES website to the four languages most frequently requested for translation: Spanish, Polish, Simplified Chinese and Russian. Other language translations can still be delivered upon request.

“IDES’ employment services are critical to keeping our economic recovery moving forward,” Governor Quinn said. “Helping individuals reach the services they need is one of the core missions of government, and these translation services will help employers and job seekers.”

Previously, IDES provided automatic website translation in Spanish, the most frequently requested language. This effort expands the available languages and also expands the number of documents and videos available for translation. Users can access translated documents by clicking the appropriate button in the upper-right corner of the IDES homepage.

“This effort is putting more information online in an easy-to-use format, making the Department more user-friendly,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said. “Each time we make our services easier to use it means more people getting back to work more quickly.”

For each language, the IDES reviews more than 280 website pages with nearly 94,000 characters. A common website language translator converts the text from English, followed by review by fluent IDES staff to ensure accuracy and nuance. As IDES website information is updated regularly, periodic reviews are planned. As a precaution, legal opinions, legislation and court orders are not automatically translated; most IDES customers do not seek these documents.

The IDES supports economic stability by administering unemployment benefits, collecting business contributions to fund those benefits, connecting employers with qualified job seekers, and providing economic information to assist career planning and economic development. It does so through nearly 60 offices, including Illinois workNet centers.


Americans want Senate to Focus on Economy, Gas Prices, not Judicial Nominations PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 19 March 2012 14:34

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Senator Chuck Grassley today released the following statement after the Senate Majority Leader cancelled 17 cloture votes on nominees for district court judgeships.  Grassley argued in a floor statement last night that the votes were a “manufactured crisis” when the Senate should be debating legislation that will help create jobs, help lower gas prices, and help get the debt under control.


“The good news for taxpayers is that the Majority Leader is finally realizing that the American people want the Senate to focus on jobs and the economy, instead of a cheap political ploy to force votes on judge nominees who would have been considered under regular Senate procedures.  Sky-rocketing gas prices, 8.3 percent unemployment and a $14 trillion debt should keep our focus solely on creating jobs for Americans and keeping government regulation under check.  It’s time the Senate get to work for the American people, instead of the president’s reelection.”


Here’s a copy of the text of Grassley’s floor statement last night.


Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Remarks on District Court Cloture Petitions

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Mr. President, I rise to speak regarding judicial nominations, and to respond to some of the claims made by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.


If you listened to some of our colleagues over the last couple of days, you would think the sky is falling.  They act as if the Senate is treating President Obama’s judicial nominees differently than nominees have been treated in the past.


That is simply not true.


A fair and impartial look at the numbers tells a far different story.  The fact of the matter is that President Obama’s nominees are being treated just as well, and in many cases, much more fairly than the Democrats treated President Bush’s nominees.  I want to take just a couple minutes to set the record straight.


Let me start by taking a brief look at the 17 cloture motions the Majority has filed.  Seven of those nominees were reported out of the Judiciary Committee within the last month, and three of them were reported last week.


That is without precedent.  To our knowledge, the Majority has never filed cloture on district court nominees within a month of them being reported out of the Judiciary Committee.  That accounts for seven of the 17.


What about the other 10?  Well, what our colleagues fail to mention is that they could have gotten a majority of those nominees confirmed at the end of last Session.  Our side cleared quite few nominees, and we offered to confirm them as a package at the end of last Session.  However, the President refused to offer assurances that he would not bypass the Senate and make so-called recess appointments.


In other words, it was the President who chose not to confirm those nominees at the end of last Session.  If the President believes we should have confirmed more nominees last fall, he should look to his own Administration for an explanation.


That is the background on the 17 cloture motions before the Senate.


But let me comment on something that I read in one of our daily newspapers that covers the Congress.  A famous reporter said in the second paragraph of a report I read today that the Republicans are filibustering nominations. I told the writer of that article that you can't filibuster anything that's not before the United States Senate, and these nominees were not before the United States Senate until the leader of the majority filed these cloture motions.


So wouldn't you think, that if you believed you needed to stop debate, that you would at least let debate start in the first place?  But no.  The game that's played around here is that, in order to build up the numbers, so you can claim that the minority is filibustering, when the minority is not actually filibustering.


But, let me take a step back and address some of the claims I have heard from the other side.  I cannot believe some of the comments I am hearing, so I believe it is important to set the record straight.


First of all, everyone around here understands that it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources for the Senate to consider Supreme Court nominees.  For that reason, when a Supreme Court nomination is pending before the Senate, the Judiciary Committee considers little else.


During President Obama’s first three years in office, the Senate considered not one, BUT TWO nominations to the Supreme Court.  Those nominations occupied the Judiciary Committee for approximately six months.


The last time the Senate handled two Supreme Court nominations was during President George W. Bush’s second term.  During President Bush’s entire second term, we confirmed only 120 lower court nominees.  Under President Obama, we have already confirmed 129 lower court  nominees.


Let me repeat that.  We have confirmed 129 of President Obama’s judicial nominees in just over three years.  That is more than were confirmed under George W. Bush’s entire second term.


And again, the comparison between President Obama’s first three years to President George W. Bush’s second term is the appropriate comparison.


These were the only two time periods in recent memory when the Senate handled two Supreme Court nominations during such a short time period.


But, even if you compare the number of President Obama’s nominees confirmed to President Bush’s first term, it is clear that President Obama has fared very well.


More specifically, even though the Senate did not consider any Supreme Court nominations during President Bush’s first term, we have confirmed approximately the same number of President Obama’s lower court nominees as we did President Bush’s, relative to the nominations President Obama has made.


In other words, although fewer lower court nominees have been confirmed under President Obama, the President made approximately 20 percent fewer judicial nominations during his first 3 years than President Bush did in his first term.


As a practical matter, if the President believes he hasn’t gotten enough confirmations, then he should look no further than the pace at which he has made nominations.


Maybe he should’ve spent less time on the 100 or so fundraisers he’s been holding all over the country recently, and more time on making judicial nominations.


The fact of the matter is this: IF a backlog exists, then it is clear that it originates with the President.


If you need even more evidence that the President has been slow to send judicial nominees to the Senate, all you need to do is examine the current vacancies.  My colleagues have been on the Senate floor talking about the so-called “vacancy crisis.”


But, what my colleagues fail to mention is that the White House has not even made nominations for over half of the current vacancies.


Let me repeat that:  Of the 83 current vacancies, the White House has not submitted nominations for 44 of them.


As a result, it is clear that IF there is a “vacancy crisis,” once again the problem rests with the White House.  If the President believes there are too many vacancies in the federal courts, he should look no further than his own Administration for an explanation.


Now, what about the other side’s claim that nominees are waiting longer to get confirmed than they have in the past?


Once again, this is just not true.


The average time from nomination to confirmation of judges during the Obama Administration is nearly identical to what it was under President Bush.  During President Bush’s Presidency, it took on average, approximately 211 days for judicial nominees to be confirmed.


During the first three years of President Obama’s Presidency, it has taken 218 days for his judicial nominees to be confirmed.


I’m sure this will be news to many of my colleagues.  If you have listened to the other side, you would think we have somehow broken new ground.  We haven’t.  We are treating President Obama’s nominees virtually the same as President Bush’s.


It's not our primary concern to worry about whether one President is being treated differently than the other. We just proceed with our work.  But the numbers you see here is a result of our work.  The fact of the matter is that the numbers aren’t much different than other presidents.  To suggest we are treating President Obama’s nominees a whole lot differently is intellectually dishonest.


The fact of the matter is that the Senate has been working its will, and regularly processing the President’s judicial nominees in much the same way it has in the past.


Given that the President’s nominees have received such fair treatment, why would the Majority Leader choose to take the unprecedented step of filing 17 cloture petitions on district court nominees?


Why would the Majority Leader choose to manufacture controversy where none exists?


The answer is simple.  These votes are nothing short of a stunt.  They are a smokescreen.


They are designed to accomplish two goals: First, as even Democrats concede, the President cannot run for re-election on his own record, so these votes are designed to help the President’s re-election strategy by somehow portraying Republicans as “obstructionist.”


Second, the other side simply does not want to talk about the extremely important and very real problems facing this nation.


Look at any poll. Go to any town meeting.  People in this country and my state of Iowa are concerned about the economy and jobs. With 8.3 percent unemployment, they are right to expect us to work on jobs.
A small business tax bill passed the other body.  Why aren't taking that up?  It's ready and would likely pass the Senate without much dissent.
Why aren't we taking up a budget this year?
It's been four years since the Senate has passed a budget. This is budget week.  Instead of talking about a budget, we're spending time talking about judicial nominees who aren't going to be filibustered.   We ought to be considering a budget. 
But the Majority refused to produce a budget.  It’s been more than 1,040 days.


The American people are sitting at home and watching this debate.  They want to know how we are going to get the unemployment rate down.


They are not concerned about whether the Senate will confirm one of the President’s district court nominees this week, rather than next.


They want to know what we are doing to help their father, or mother, or brother or sister get back into the workforce.


Given that millions of Americans remain out of work, why aren’t we considering and debating the JOBS bill the House just passed?


Why aren’t we tackling the Energy crisis?

With $4 gas in this country, we ought to be talking about drilling here, drilling now.  We ought to be talking about building a pipeline.  We ought to be talking about how we can stop sending
 $833 million every day overseas to buy oil. We ought to be talking about extending the energy tax extenders that sunset as of December 23.


Unlike the so-called “vacancy crisis,” the energy crisis is not manufactured.  It is real.  The rising cost of gasoline matters to millions and millions of Americans.


If they are fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, millions of Americans are trying to figure out how they will afford to get to work with the rising cost of gasoline.


Rather than spend time working on Energy crisis, which is all too real for millions of Americans, we are spending time on this manufactured controversy.


And what’s even worse, this is the week we’re supposed to be debating a Budget.  But, you’d need a high powered microscope to find any budget that the Majority has put together.  The Majority has failed to produce a budget, so they manufacture a so-called “crisis” on nominations to throw up a smokescreen to hide their failure.


Mr. President, I will have more to say about this as we move forward with this debate.  But for now I will conclude by saying this.


A fair and impartial examination of how the Senate has treated President Obama’s nominees reveals that, contrary to what you’ll hear from the other side, the President’s nominees are being treated more than fair.


Rather than waste time on a so-called “crisis” that everyone realizes is entirely manufactured, we should be focusing on those issues that matter deeply to the American people: jobs, the economy, and tackling our energy crisis.


I urge my colleagues to reject these cloture petitions so that we can get back to the business of the American people.


I yield the floor.



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