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September 20, 2011

Written by Bob Meyer, Editor of BarterNews

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From the desk of Bob Meyer... 09/20/2011

BarterQuest Joins IRTA, Will Attend Convention

One of the International Reciprocal Trade Association�s newest members will be making a presentation at IRTA�s 32nd annual convention this week in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Dr. Paul Bocheck, BarterQuest�s co-founder and developer of its patented technology, will talk about his matching engine algorithms to the industry�s attendees.

Investment Advisors Provide Suggestions To Generation X and Y

A survey of 226 registered investment advisors commissioned by Scottrade has some strong advice to Generation Y (ages 18-26) and Generation X (ages 31-45). Their advice: start saving for retirement now, as according to 77% of the advisors, you�ll need at least $2 million when you stop working, if you are to enjoy financial freedom in your golden years.

Getting to $2 million means at 25 years of age you�ll have to put away $7,405 annually for 40 years at 8% annual returns. (Such high returns are, today, difficult to realize. Historically, however, such returns have been possible.)

Hotelier Used Barter In His Turn Around Success

Boom-and-bust hotelier Laurence Geller has recently, through a string of clever deals, rescued Strategic Hotels & Resorts and its 17 trophy hotels from the brink of financial ruin. The 63-year-old Englishman built his career clashing with hotel giants such as Marriott International over costs for managing his hotels and with unions.

(Geller�s hotels include four Four Seasons, two Ritz-Carltons and a stake in the historic Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego.)

The company�s stock hit a low of 61-cents in 2009, and recently traded at $5.12. Strategic�s resurgence under Geller was due to his creative thinking, unusual restructuring, and refinancing of their debts.  As well, he recruited deep-pocketed partners to recapitalize some of his debt-saddled hotels.

Another deft move was to reduce his debt by buying hotels with company stock rather than selling assets. For example, he used stock to acquire Four Seasons hotels in Jackson Hole (WY) and Palo Alto (CA), as well as bartering with stock to buy out Strategic�s partner in the InterContinental Chicago. The market value of the company�s stock is roughly $950 million after hitting a low of $54 million in 2009.

All back issues of "From the Desk...� can be accessed by clicking here.

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Why Recognition Still Matters

In the midst of an economy with very little growth, and with U.S. unemployment levels hovering around nine percent, all business expenses continue to attract scrutiny from the cost-cutting hawks. And that leaves business leaders questioning if employee retention still matters.

According to a new white paper released by New York�based Madison Performance Group, the worldwide leader in developing employee engagement and incentive marketing programs for Fortune 1000 corporations that include CA, Citigroup, Kawasaki and Siemens � the answer is a resounding YES!

The pressure to do more with less continues to guide corporate thinking, and executives are wondering if programs designed to strengthen an employee�s commitment and loyalty still make sense in an economy that has an abundance of idle labor.

Engaged employees � those who are emotionally and intellectually committed to what they do, and who they do it for � are proven to be more productive than those who are not. But employee productivity has not wavered in years. In fact, the average output per employee has increased. This has occurred while the aggregate national income level for workers has been in steady decline for quite some time. Essentially, employees are doing more with less and for less.

�Most employees feel overworked and under-appreciated,� says Mike Ryan, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Client Strategy for Madison Performance Group. �They are productive now because they have to be, not because they want to be, and they are planning to leave their present employers when the opportunity presents itself. The surge of productivity that companies have enjoyed will not go on forever. Businesses that ignore this reality, and that do not take proactive steps to reconnect with their workforce, run the risk of being the big losers when hiring heats up again.�

Business leaders who continue to think employees have no options are playing with fire. While the labor market to date has been inconsistent � some might say soft � many experts say a new phase of robust hiring is coming. At the beginning of the year, multiple economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecasted that an average of 2.5 million jobs would be added to the U.S. economy this year, which would be the best one-year gain in hiring since 1999. Even the most pessimistic of those surveyed, David Wyss of Standard & Poor�s, expected 1.8 million jobs to be added this year, roughly double the pace of hiring in 2010.

Businesses have digested a lot of bad news recently, but uncertainty will more likely delay than derail the recovery. Ryan adds, �Keep in mind that businesses have enjoyed seven consecutive quarters of rising profits. Third-quarter profits in 2010 rose at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion, the steepest annual surge since officials began tracking such matters 60 years ago. At some point, progressive companies will realize that the path to sustained growth is a combination of increased employee commitment and additional headcount.�

Here are five steps businesses should undertake immediately to reconnect with their employees in order to retain their best and brightest and create a work environment that�s more attractive to potential new hires:

� Repair your culture

Two-thirds of employees believe that company culture has a significant impact on their morale and productivity. A positive culture aligns corporate strategy with behavioral expectations, gives employees clarity and purpose, and provides a framework for worker contributions.

In a positive environment, workers are more likely to trust their managers and coworkers, share information and ideas without hesitation, and contribute discretionary effort freely. Businesses signal what�s important through their recognition plans, and companies would be smart to take proactive steps to repair whatever cultural damage may have been done over the last few years. They can start by reinforcing the attitudes and actions that characterize their internal brand � their cultural framework.

� Set the stage for continuous innovation

As companies fight for incremental growth, the ability to identify and leverage new value-creating ideas is a valuable differentiator. Smart companies know innovations occur when complex thinking is applied to new problems or opportunities by those individuals who are intellectually committed to finding more effective outcomes. These �personal patents� define the best and newest, but often unshared, best practices emerging within every business.

In innovative environments, employees believe that management is open to new ideas, not averse to experimentation and generally supportive of prudent risk taking. It is your recognition philosophy that mitigates the fear of failure that often stifles an innovative instinct, and it is your recognition platform that can serve as the place to solicit, acknowledge and socialize those new ideas, maximizing employee collaboration and operational impact.

� Involve front-line managers

Employees are much more likely to be engaged when they feel their manager understands what they do well, encourages them to use their skills as much as possible, and recognizes and rewards their achievements when they do.

But in the face of competing priorities, most front-line managers in today�s talent economy are not sufficiently committed to the development of their employees� capabilities or careers. And in that regard, they may be taking their cues from the top. McKinsey says that CEOs and senior leaders are not sufficiently involved in either shaping talent management strategies or in outcomes.

� Don�t neglect virtual workers

The rapid rise of technology has accelerated the growth of the virtual workforce. This group of employees tends to toil alone, far from physical interactions with others � and the reassurance others bring. Distance exacerbates their need to bond and feel connected. This is one reason why reinforcement activities need to be more specific and frequent with virtual employees than perhaps with any other group.

While the digital technologies virtual workers use to communicate and collaborate are sleek, they can lead to misunderstandings that strain relationships, trust, and a sense of belonging. In other words, technologies are the variable in the virtual employee/employer dynamic. An overwhelming concentration of instant messages, e-mails and text messages dominate virtual workers� communication patterns and increase the potential that things will be taken out of context.

Ironically, web technologies can also provide a solution for companies looking to create a more closely connected employee society. When integrated with forethought, social-networking techniques can help companies expand the impact of recognition across worker communities of common interest.

Employees, once isolated, can build/maintain relationships, share successes and learn from one another. Companies that have incorporated social-media-type tools report increased employee engagement, expanded opportunities for knowledge sharing, higher levels of innovation, superior customer focus and lower communication costs. 

� Think like marketers

No discipline within an organization is more committed to the development and optimization of its workforce than Human Resources. But to be better at generating the type of emotional connections that drive long-term value and loyalty, HR teams will need to start thinking and executing like their marketing colleagues.

Marketing teams have evolved particularly quickly in using digital media to deliver messages that are more efficient and impactful. Precision marketing practices that build personalized relationships with the brand have helped marketing teams gain new respect and status within organizations. HR teams would be wise to adopt some of their methods as they look to create, deliver, and sustain a more meaningful employee/employer relationship.

Companies continue to rebound, yet the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly stuck around the 9% mark for almost two years. How unprecedented is that? During the 1982 recession, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.8%, but that elevated level didn�t last quite as long � only 19 months.

Workers are now doing more for companies. While the labor inequities have helped organizations experience a windfall of productivity and profits, they have also placed a strain on employee morale and engagement. Survey after survey suggests that a wide-scale worker defection is forthcoming.

�To sustain high levels of productivity, organizations will need to rely less on employee fear and more on recognition techniques that are proven to spark and prolong an employee�s desire to contribute,� concludes Ryan. �Without taking action now, employers will be left with a recession-damaged workplace culture populated by disenfranchised employees who will leave for new pastures at the first opportunity.�

(Madison Performance Group has become respected for its ability to create innovative ideas and strategic incentive marketing solutions. It helps build a corporation�s competitive advantage in today�s rapidly evolving, global marketplace. The company has headquarters in Manhattan and offices in China, Brazil, Sweden and Mexico.)

To learn more about Madison Performance Group click here.

Is Your Trade Exchange Missing Out On Valuable New Business?

If your barter company�s listing on isn�t current, you are definitely missing out on new business. The web site receives heavy traffic � with over 150,000 page-views every month. Entrepreneurs and corporate executives check the thousands of articles, the weekly �Tuesday Report,� and the �Contacts Section� of our site. They use the latter to find barter companies with which to do business.

Is your barter company�s listing up-to-date?

To keep your listing current is very easy. See the links below to (A) update any changes to your company�s listing, such as new location, phone number, web site or other information, and (B) if your company has not been listed.

Here�s how to get on board:

To make changes to your listing click here.

For new listings click here.

Let Go To GROW

By Doug & Polly White

Small businesses have a big impact on our economy, they:

  • Represent 99.7% of all employers

  • Create 75% of net new jobs

  • Employ about 50% of all private sector workers

  • Number 22.9 million

The U.S. economy is sluggish at best. If it�s to turn around, the above statistics show that small businesses will have to lead the way. But, too often, small business owners unwittingly stall the growth of their own companies. 

Authors and business partners, Doug and Polly White, have written a new book, Let Go To GROW, to help small business owners understand how to avoid the pitfalls they will inevitably encounter as their companies grow. It shows these leaders how to direct their enterprises on a path of continued growth while sidestepping the traps that ensnare so many.

By reading Let Go To GROW, small business owners will discover that in order to take their business to the next level, they will have to relinquish certain tasks and their skill set will have to morph to keep pace with the changing demands of a growing business. After analyzing more than 100 businesses, the Whites learned that principals must Let Go To GROW. This insight can revolutionize a small business, and change lives along the way. 

Let Go To GROW examines the challenges entrepreneurs face as their businesses grow from micro to small, and from small to midsize. The Whites define businesses in an innovative way � not in terms of revenue or number of employees, but rather in terms of management structure. Accordingly, they define a micro business as one in which the principal is doing the primary work of the enterprise. In a small business, the principal is managing those who do the primary work; when a company reaches midsize, the principal is managing managers.

These may sound like subtle changes, but they define the points where the principal�s role must change or growth will stall. Their work uncovered new insights that have not been discussed in the business world � until now. Through the authors� extensive research as well as 50-plus combined years of business experience, Let Go To GROW explores topics including:

         When in the life-cycle of a business the role of the principal needs to change

         The one thing that most often stalls the growth of small businesses

         Key things a prospective entrepreneur should know before he/she starts or buys a business

         How to make good tactical decisions, develop an effective strategy, develop an effective market segmentation and effectively set goals

         Why the core of any successful business is hiring the right people, and how to do it

         The inevitable challenges that a company will encounter as it transitions from micro to small to midsize

         How to effectively document processes and develop a robust set of metrics, and why it is critically important to do so

         The value of quality improvement and cycle-time reduction

The publication chronicles the predictable challenges principals face and how to successfully overcome them. Unlike many business books, it addresses not only what needs to be done, but also explains how to do it.

�During the course of our consulting work,� says Doug, �we discovered a number of businesses that had stalled because the owner did not delegate. The principal was out of capacity, typically working 80-hours or more a week. Their personal life was gone. Their businesses had stopped growing and profitability was a thing of the past. We saw other businesses that were in serious trouble because the principal had delegated prematurely.�

 �We wrote our book,� adds Polly, �to help businesses that reach the junctures where the principal must Let Go To GROW, and all growing businesses will.�

(Doug and Polly White are partners at Whitestone Partners, Inc., a management consulting firm guiding small and midsize businesses through profitable growth. Combined, they have more than 50 years of experience enabling companies to achieve their goals.)

For more information on the authors click here


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