C-Suite Network

Leadership Management Money


If I could show you a way to be much happier, incur no out-of-pocket cost, and you can start to receive benefits much faster than an Amazon Prime delivery, would you be interested?

Just practice Gratitude and The Love of Learning.

Gratitude. Being grateful takes up space in the brain that might otherwise be occupied by fear. Being fearful happens to be one of the root causes of many mistakes. Once that space is filled with gratitude, certain things begin to happen

Gratitude also leads to feelings of optimism. Optimists outperform pessimists by 31 percent. 

Gratitude leads to better thinking. 

Gratitude reduces stress. When you’re under stress, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that decreases your creativity, problem-solving capacity, and life span.

Many studies have shown people receiving pensions are much more grateful and outlive people who live off the ups and downs of their market portfolios.

Staying grateful is the best way to overcome life’s challenges.

What can you be grateful for right now? Even the simple things like your cup of tea or coffee this morning will work. Having a family member or friend or just waking up today. The list is endless, so make yourself a checklist!

Love of learning is the other key factor in personal happiness.

We’re dealing with continuous change and overwhelming information, which is not slowing down. So, when confronted with a problem, we may need to learn something new. This new situation forces some of our brain’s warning lights to go on for many of us, alerting us that we are in new territory and trying to get us back to the comfort zone that worked before.

Once you realize that your current level of knowledge is not insufficient for a solution and your mind is working against you, the Love of Learning will allow you to learn these new things by overriding the brain’s comfort zone. Instead of stressing, you can calmly approach the concern and not be deterred by the brain’s warning lights. Now it’s full steam ahead as you confidently approach the problem because you love to learn. 

For more Healthy Money Tips Listen to our PodCast “Money 911”

Sign up for a Financial Fitness Strategy Session at Meet with Kris Miller – Financial Fitness Strategy Sessions

Go to my website https://healthymoneyhappylife.com/

Email me at Kris@HealthyMoneyHappyLIfe.com

Call me or text (951) 926-4158

Advice Management Strategy


Hey, what’s almost 50? Many people own one, and everybody wants it, yet very few understand it, including HR and Business owners.

It’s the IRA and its slightly younger cousin, the 401(k).

The IRA and Section 401(k) were established as part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to help people save for retirement. Also, part of the Act is section 404(c), which applies responsibilities to HR and employers to maintain employee education. Your account growing tax-deferred each year was a great idea; therefore, more of your money grow because less is going to the IRS. Two years later, the 401(k) was added to the tax-saving marketplace, and this new plan became the new pension for many workers.

Tax savings was welcomed back in 1971-1980; the highest marginal Federal Income Tax rate was 70%. With that in mind, everybody started pouring money into these accounts and took advantage of the tax deduction for faster growth. Another benefit we were told of was that taxes during retirement would be lower because retired people have lower incomes.

People were so stuck on tax savings and poured trillions into these accounts. Sadly, these trillions hastened the ending of many guarantees in traditional pension plans.

Several flaws have developed or worsened over the last few decades with the 401(k) and IRA, yet we were so stuck with what we were doing already that it was hard to see the truth.

Flaw #1 Believing a 401(k) plan is a pension plan.

What is a 401(k) plan? We will tell you what it is not to get to the point. Contrary to what many believe, it is not a Pension Plan-it is a Retirement savings account. And that is very different.

A pension plan guarantees that you will receive a specified sum for your and or your partner’s lifetimes, and a 401 (k) does not have that protection. If the market crashes or your investment decreases in value, there is no floor, and you’re on your own. There is no guarantee of how much income you will get or how long it will last.

To safeguard the guarantee of income for life in pension plans. The US government created an insurance company called the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC). The PBGC guarantees you will get your monthly pension up to its legal limits even if the company you worked for goes belly up or the market crashes, depleting pension assets.

Was The PBGC ever used? In 2021 the PBGC paid monthly retirement benefits, up to legal limits, to nearly 1.5 million retirees in over 5,000 employer plans that ended. That’s a lot of protection you do not have with a 401(k)!

Flaw #2 Believing you will be in a lower tax bracket

That high 70% marginal tax rate that was used in marketing only affected a tiny percentage of the population, and the great majority paid much less. It is a very good possibility that taxes will rise and not be lower. I mention this because, in the long-term, the only way to deal with the National Debt, deficit, Social Security, and Medicare trust funds will be to increase tax rates. We can safely say that taxes will not be lower in the future!

Flaw #3. The New Jersey double tax.

Many people are surprised to learn that New Jersey does not allow a deduction for contributions to IRAs and 403(b) plans, even if they are deductible for federal income tax purposes. With that in mind, preserving your tax records showing your deposited amount each year is critical. Keeping old tax records is challenging enough. However, if you cannot show how much you put

  1. Then every dollar you take out will be taxed again. Wow, paying taxes again on the money you already paid taxes on. Therefore. It is critical to permanently maintain tax records to determine how much of the account has been taxed. These records are vital for our beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, who will be clobbered if unavailable.

Flaw #4 Believing your retirement savings plans can pass tax-free.

Most people realize that you can leave a large estate without having estate taxes due. However, retirement dollars like IRA, 401K, 403(b) will always be subjected to income taxes at the state and federal levels. Estates of 6.5 million and more for a couple will pass estate tax-free to beneficiaries. Income taxes will be due, and the beneficiary tax rates from the first dollar.

Flaw #5 For certain people, an additional tax is due – NJ. Inheritance taxes.

Yes, NJ has both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. New Jersey residents must be aware of the effect of the Inheritance Tax, which is applied to 100% of the balance in these accounts. Luckily, spouses, children, grandkids, and even your parents are exempted and charities.

Everyone else is like brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, and close friends. Inheritance Tax rates range from 11% to 16%, depending on the beneficiary’s relationship with the account owner and the estate’s value. For these reasons, planning for these accounts is essential and should not be delayed.

Flaw #6 Believing the family can continue these accounts.

IRS took away a great family IRA planning tool. The/Stretch IRA, as it was referred to, allowed an IRA owner to continue payments to their children, grandkids, and even great-grandkids over their lifetimes (spouses are exempted). Sometimes, this wealth-producing engine could last 80 years after your passing. Passing wealth over many generations was what the super-wealthy were for generations.

Sadly, the IRS decided you no longer could use what the rich were doing. Even though it is your money, you are being denied the ability to continue payments for decades. They decided that the inherited IRA must have some distributions taken yearly and must be emptied entirely by the end of the ten years. Decades of deferred tax growth are lost forever. I joke; the tax rules are written in pencil – easily and frequently changed.

The Six Flaws will be addressed in a little more depth over the next few days.


For more Healthy Money Tips Listen to our PodCast “Money 911”

Sign up for a Financial Fitness Strategy Session at Meet with Kris Miller – Financial Fitness Strategy Sessions

Go to my website https://healthymoneyhappylife.com/

Email me at Kris@HealthyMoneyHappyLIfe.com

Call me or text (951) 926-4158

Advice Body Language Growth Management


Low productivity is a focus problem.

If you keep feeding your distractions, you can’t make real progress. If you are trapped in a wealth of online distractions, you must start thinking about a different approach to work.

Focus, a valuable commodity for getting real work done, is increasingly becoming a lost art.

If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t analyze how you spend your time. Pay attention to what consumes your attention.

If how you work is not working, design a different system that makes progress possible every day, increasing efficiency and output.

Your present life and career total everything you’ve focused on. If you are unhappy with your productive life, change the system that drives it.

New tools and technology are meant to help us work better, faster, and more intelligently, but they often distract us.

Many productivity apps are meant to improve our lives, but they get in the way of deep and accurate work.

You can’t stop responding to those notifications. The zero-email mindset is a productivity trap that keeps you constantly responding to emails.

How can you get real work done when you can’t stop reacting to almost every notification?

“Feed a cold and starve a fever.

To gain productivity, feed your focus and starve your distractions.”

“It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein once said.

Many people have a real plan to get important stuff done — they are not necessarily lazy and don’t know how to stop feeding their distractions.

Attention distraction is one of the biggest obstacles to getting real done. “Focus is the art of knowing what to ignore.

People who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive:

To feed your focus, start separating your urgent work from essential tasks. And most importantly, identify your distractions and how they starve your focus. Knowing your distractions can help you understand how you spend your attention.

For every focused work you want to do, identify the potential distractions, and stop them before you get in the focus zone.

Deep workers often find that notifications, no matter how important the message, takes their deep focus away from the task, and it takes twice as long to get back to focus mode again.

To produce at your peak level, you need to work for extended periods with total concentration on a single task free from distraction. 

To feed your focus, create healthy work boundaries that allow you to concentrate on essential tasks fully. Build a system that starves distractions. Create intentional constraints that will enable you to assume focus mode.

When you’re ‘on,’ be entirely on — use headphones, and when possible, hide your phone, turn it upside down, or block notifications. Block internal and external distractions.

The ability to focus for about 30/40/60 minutes is the only difference between truly productive people and those who struggle to get things done.

Measure your work and find the most suitable focused time that works for you. Your degree of focus determines how fast you make progress.

Structure your day in chunks of focused work to make in-depth work sessions work. Start your day with intention. What is the one thing you have to accomplish today? Start your focused sessions with that task.

Set up your environment to support your focus mode. And plan purposeful breaks in-between deep work sessions. (Pomodoro method)

One final insight about prioritizing involves getting disciplined about what you don’t put on the stage. This means not thinking when you don’t have to, becoming disciplined about not paying attention to non-urgent tasks unless, or until, it’s genuinely essential that you do,

Deep work is a habit and working for long stretches at a time takes time to develop. You can start today. Do more focused work daily, and it will become a habit that helps you get real work done weekly. Better routines are the personal habits of highly efficient people.

What do you do to become more productive?


For more Healthy Money Tips Listen to our PodCast “Money 911”

Meet with Kris Miller – Financial Fitness Strategy Sessions



(951) 926-4158

Best Practices Human Resources Management Parenting Personal Development

Employing Your Children

As the IRS website states: “One of the advantages of operating your own business is hiring family members.” That family member can be a spouse, sibling, parent, or even a child (between the ages of 3-18). In fact, while hiring a child may not seem like a top- of-mind move for many businesses owners, if you play by the rules there can be a surprisingly broad array of tax benefits to doing so!

With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increasing the Standard Deduction up to $12,200.00 (in 2019), children employed in a family business can earn that much in income and enjoy a zero-tax rate on their income. In addition, many states will also permit children employed in the business to avoid unemployment (FUTA) taxes and children working for their parents’ sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC, may also avoid employment (FICA) taxes as well , which can be a material tax savings for many families, especially those with high-income parental business owners. This allows you to reduce the amount of income you need to take home personally by $12,200.00 per child which results in paying less in personal taxes.

Furthermore, employing a child in the business also creates earned income that can qualify the child to make a Roth IRA contribution, and/or qualify the child for other employee benefits. This means that you can take $6,000.00 of the $12,200.00 and place it in a Roth IRA, which will grow completely tax free until your child is able to withdraw it at the age of 59.5 years of age. Just one of the many ways to create Generational Wealth.

With the remaining $6,200.00, it can be put into a children’s bank account with parental control and used to cover things like, Sports, Band, Dance, and other hobbies your child or children may enjoy. When you personally cover these expenses, they are not tax deductible to you as an individual. 

Although the caveat is that employing a child in the business still requires that he/she d o bona fide, age-appropriate work in the business for a “reasonable” wage. The work must also comply with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules which fortunately are flexible for parents employing their children in their own wholly-parental-owned business and state child labor laws as well. 

Let me qualify the above. If your LLC or Corporation is taxed as a “C” Elected or “S” Elected company, you will need to withhold taxes just like any other employee. 

Let’s discuss how you can implement this in your business, contact our offices at 775-384-8124 or send an email to contact@controllersltd.com 

Much Success, 

Scott L. Arden, CEO 

Controllers, Ltd. 


Advice Leadership Management Money Women In Business


The government wants to reduce expenses by using a different CPI version of the (Consumer Price Index). Their new attempt, known as chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) (aka C-CPI-U), this alternative formula reflects how consumers change their purchasing habits when prices rise or fall for a broad range of services, including food, housing, clothing, and medical expenses. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that government spending on Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits would decline by about $300 billion over ten years if this less-generous index were in place.

The idea of switching to a chained CPI has garnered bipartisan support to rein in entitlement spending. But at what cost? There will be plenty.

Many elements of the federal tax code — including tax brackets, personal exemptions, standard deductions, limits on contributions to 401(k) plans and similar accounts, and critical parameters of the earned income and child tax credits — are also adjusted annually for the CPI. According to the CBO, switching to the chained CPI would raise an additional $150 billions of tax revenue through 2026.

The chained CPI grows on average by about 0.3 percentage points per year more slowly than the official CPI (which is weak at best gauge to the actual cost of living). The Social Security actuaries, in their projections, assume the gap between the two CPIs will continue to average 0.3 percentage points per year in the future. 

The Chained CPI will chain you to a lifetime of higher taxes. According to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, if individual income taxes had been indexed to the chained CPI starting July 2013, by 2022, 69 percent of the gains in revenue would come from taxpayers with incomes below $100,000, while those in the highest income brackets would barely be affected. In other words, raise the taxes on the middle class while leaving the rich alone.

Higher taxes are coming; start planning now!

For more Healthy Money Tips Listen to our PodCast “Money 911”

Sign up for a Financial Fitness Strategy Session:  Meet with Kris Miller – Financial Fitness Strategy Sessions

You can reach me at Kris@HealthyMoneyHappyLIfe.com, (951) 926-4158

Body Language Growth Leadership Management

Staying Positive Amid Adversity

Increasing inflation, higher interest rates, decreased investment, and interruptions brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are all factors why the World Bank said in its most recent Global Economic Prospects that the world economy is currently contracting severely.

If you add in any additional negative incident, such as higher-than-expected inflation rate, abrupt increases in interest rates (to manage inflation), a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, or growing geopolitical tensions, it might send the world economy into recession, given the already precarious economic conditions. This is the first time that two worldwide recessions occurred within the same decade!

Here in the US, the economy is predicted to slow down even further and suffer a minor recession. According to an economic forecast by JP Morgan, the US economy is anticipated to have a modest 0.5-1% real GDP growth rate in 2023, taking into account the possibility of a light recession starting in the latter half of the year. From 1.5-2% in 2022, 6% in 2021, and the longer-term average annual growth rate of 1.8%, this would represent a further slowdown in growth. However, is this just a lead-in to a more aggressive recession expected in early 2024?

All these numbers may sound confusing, but to make things short, we’re in for some tough times ahead. It’s one of those times when we have to tighten our proverbial belts and steel ourselves for some adversity and some uncomfortable change.

If there’s anything the recent pandemic has taught us is that change can happen slowly at first and then suddenly come crashing all at once. To survive, we often hear from others to “stay positive”—but what does this even mean? Does this simply mean embracing a positive, more hopeful outlook? Or do you have to have a concrete plan to bring those positive thoughts into reality?

We offer a slightly different perspective.

We struggle in the face of adversity not because we lack positivity but because we are unable to handle negativity. They’re not the same at all.

Positive thinking has been lauded for a good reason countless times. According to studies, it has a direct correlation with health, lifespan, and a higher standard of living. There is no question about that. Positive thinking is important, but it’s not enough to help you change the circumstance you’re in.

As explained by Kazimierz Dbrowski’s theory of positive disintegration, changing one’s self-concept is the only way for humans to progress. A person can be compelled to modify their self-concept if their current self-concept cannot handle or does not fit their current circumstances.

Think about your life—you may recall that every instance of severe suffering and agony, most often than not, is followed by unprecedented personal growth. The majority of successful people who experienced difficulty used the same as a catalyst in their lives at some point. They grew because they could no longer function in the same way. In short, they learned to adapt. They transformed not because of their surroundings, not because of society, but because their internal needs and wants can no longer be fulfilled by their past selves.

So how do we go about transforming ourselves?

According to Dąbrowski, self-concept reformation involves three phases, or levels, of development:

  1. You have to learn to adapt to your impulses and surroundings. People are influenced by their impulses or their social environments. This is known as primitive or primary People rely on cultural, social, and even religious influences to create a picture of how the world works. The people who remain at this level their entire lives have the most trouble becoming self-reliant, independent, and generally moving up in life.
  2. Once you realize that most of what you believe in is “borrowed” from others, you set out on a journey of self-discovery. You begin to explore your intrinsic desires. Eventually, you’ll realize that you are either going to progress or digress. Dąbrowski explains that you begin to ask yourself whether to “follow your instincts (first factor), your teachings (second factor), or your heart (third factor)”? For example, you may begin to reform and transform your lower-level instincts, like anger or aggression, into positive motivation, empathy, and understanding.
  3. You begin to form a worldview that’s based on your own beliefs. This is the stage where people that shift into higher thinking begin to see that the events of their lives are related to their mindset and response systems. Once this is understood, it becomes “impossible” to revert to lower levels of thinking. Once you see how much control you have over your life, you can’t unsee it.

What we can learn from this

Introspection, thinking about what we have gone through, and looking back at our past can sometimes paralyze forward motion, BUT, at times, looking back is a catalyst for moving ahead.

One of the important lessons we can take from looking back is the realization that we are not the first, or only ones, to encounter difficult circumstances.

Another lesson we can pick up from looking into our past is that even if you were not lucky enough to have a rosy heritage—even if you have suffered abuse, absence, addiction, anger, or disinterest, you can use these experiences to break negative patterns and establish new priorities.


Positive thinking is more than just being hopeful. It entails discovering what your catalyst would be to help you weather any adversity and help you move forward. This means you have to deal with a lot of discomfort—rather than trying to cultivate more comfort. Positive thinking means that you start to view your struggles not as a judgment of your status in life but rather as a cue that positive change needs to occur. Instead of trying to avoid intense feelings and call them a solution, we can listen to those feelings and consider them messengers, even purveyors of change.

To know more about positive thinking and what the upcoming recession means for business, tune into Charged Up Studio, the podcast, on February 7th to hear economist, Bill Conerly, talk about what we can expect in 2023.

Body Language Growth Leadership Management

Are Your Learners Using New Skills after Training Ends?

You and your organization are spending money on training. But are your trainees really using the new skills they learned in training, or do they immediately go back to business as usual?

Here are seven strategies that can help assure that they are:

  1. During training, explain what you will be monitoring afterwards. This sounds basic, but it can be effective. For example, if one of your goals is to have your salespeople follow up a minimum of four times before giving up on a sale, tell them they will be tracked on that. There is wisdom in the old saying, “What gets measured, gets done.”
  2. Schedule additional training sessions. This sounds pretty fundamental too, yet some companies seem to assume that once training is done, it’s done. The fact is, follow-up sessions can be highly effective in making sure that training “sticks.” Deliver follow-up content in online lessons or to mobile devices.
  3. Let trainees monitor and support each other. Try setting up weekly calls where trainees check in with each other to ask, “What have you tried so far . . . how is it working for you?” This can be more effective than having upper management look in.
  4. Follow training with coaching. Your trainer can take on a coaching role and work directly with trainees after training ends. Or executives within your organization can.
  5. Use technology to keep things percolating. You can send a daily tip or motivational message or video to trainees via text messages or email. We can help you integrate them seamlessly into your training program at very little cost.
  6. Shake up the way your trainees do their jobs. Instead of having each member of your sales staff make sales calls alone, for example, let them partner up and make sales calls in pairs. It can be a great way to make sure your trainees step out of their comfort zones and try new things.
  7. Consider adding incentives or awards. When a customer service rep successfully hits one of the benchmarks you set out in training, you can give her an award and share that news with all the other trainees. Used in the right way, awards can assure that more of your learners apply the lessons they learned in training.


Should You Use Social Media to Support Training?

We have been seeing more of this lately – trainees are so excited that they set up a Facebook page, a LinkedIn group or other social media presence to discuss their new skills. There is one additional consideration to keep in mind, however. Do you want your competitors, customers, clients and other company outsiders to look at those pages and learn all about your training? If that is a concern – and perhaps it should be – consider setting up groups that require interested people to apply for membership and get approved before joining.


Growth Management Personal Development

The Truth: Performance Review Transformation is Not Over

By: Wally Hauck

“Wisdom is found only in truth.” – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

It is difficult to find the truth especially in complex situations.  It can be elusive. It is often influenced by changes in our environment.  It can shift dramatically when we change how we think about the problems we are seeking to solve.  For example, some advertisements for cigarettes in the 1950 made claims that smoking was safe.  Some claimed even doctors enjoyed them without concern, they could keep you slim, and/or they could help relieve your asthma symptoms.  Today, those messages would be considered lies.

Are performance reviews effective or not?  According to some research (SHRM) 58% of managers say no and of course 42% say yes.  Jack Welch still defends the forced ranking of employees using the performance review (rank-and-yank). Steve Ballmer at Microsoft “yanked” that policy out of Microsoft because a large percentage of employees claimed it was one of the worse policies on the planet for engagement and innovation.   Who’s right? It depends!  How you think about people, problems, and the root cause of poor performance will influence your answer. 

There is a transformation occurring in the performance review process now.  Many large organizations are the early adopters of that transformation.  These include Adobe, GE, Deloitte, Google, and a few others.  Still nearly 85% of organizations continue to use the typical performance review model.    Yet many of those are now motivated more than ever to consider a change.  According to a recent survey by Bersin, 70% of the organizations surveyed reported either recently changing their performance management system or were seriously considering it.

What’s the motivation to change?  It’s the usual reasons and some additional new ones too.  For some it’s the need for speed.  The truth: annual reviews just don’t allow people to respond to the accelerated change in the marketplace.  Customers’ needs and desires change frequently and employees must be in a position to respond. The annual typical review stymies an organization’s ability to respond.

Still others are interested in improving employee engagement.  The typical review is notorious for damaging engagement.  Ratings are often seen as biased or manipulated. This is especially true of forced ranking systems.  Yahoo is currently facing a law suit brought on by their forced ranking system. 

Still others have come to realize their corporate values are being contradicted by their typical performance review process.  The truth: this contradiction with values has damaged productivity of disgruntled employees who are receiving the mixed messages.

On a more practical note, some of these early adopters of the transformation have finally come to realize the internal costs of conducting the typical review.    The time spent by managers to “do them right” far outweighs the benefits.  This is especially true when one calculates the loss of engagement, loss of productivity, and damage to the speed of response to changing conditions.

But, there is one more reason to transform the typical review.  In my opinion this reason is the most compelling of all because it gets to the very heart of the root cause of the failure of the typical review.  All the other reasons are symptoms.      When one finds a root cause it’s time to celebrate because you know you are close to a breakthrough in performance improvement.  As Dorothy Thompson once said, “There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.”  The truth: the typical review has the wrong focus.  Its focus is on individual improvement and not on the quality of interactions. The early adopters are still making this mistake.

There are two ways an employee can obtain feedback, interpersonal interactions and system interactions. Interpersonal interactions concern behavior which the employee has total control.  System interactions involve other factors outside the control of the individual.

In most organizations it is the employee’s manager who is formally responsible for giving feedback to the employee.  The truth: this is a manager dependent process that can contribute to a sluggish bureaucracy.  As mentioned earlier, one of the major complaints of the typical performance appraisal is that feedback occurs infrequently and that infrequent feedback damages employee engagement which damages performance.  Why can’t everyone be allowed and/or obligated to give feedback when appropriate?  Few of the transformations allow feedback from anyone including co-workers.

Employees need to understand how their behavior impacts the performance of others. Every employee needs to behave with respect and integrity at all times or performance suffers.  Interpersonal interactions enable people to communicate with each other effectively as long as it is with integrity and respect.  When people are disrespectful they need to realize it and they need to change and they need to know immediately.  When they break integrity they need to know it and they need to change and they need to know immediately. 

Managers can influence the quality of the interpersonal interactions.  They can make them easier or harder. They can make them functional or dysfunctional.  When an employee’s behavior is discussed the influence of managers must be discussed as well.  The truth:  the transformation continues to point mostly in one direction i.e. toward the employee.  Few of the transformations encourage feedback to the manager from the employee.

System interactions, the second type of feedback, provide information about how well employees are working with their processes.  Employees influence their processes but they don’t control all the inputs.  The quality of the inputs to their processes will influence their performance.  An organization must recognize this and enable employees to communicate immediately when the inputs are not optimal. The current transformations are not clarifying this.

Employees should be able to receive frequent feedback from their processes.  Their manager and co-workers may need to give them feedback on the quality of their interpersonal interactions but feedback from the processes should not be fully dependent upon the employee’s manager.  The employee, if they understand how to study a process, can arrange to collect their own data.  The transformations are not addressing this concern. 

The truth: the transformation continues to focus on individual performance instead of the quality of the interactions therefore the transformation is not yet over.  I am hopeful the transformation continues to evolve in this direction otherwise performance improvement will continue to suffer and frustrations will continue.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

Growth Management Personal Development

Executive Briefings: Engage and Empower Your People to Ignite Sales, the Barefoot Spirit

Executive Briefings is an online event with a similar kind of context that C-Suite has for physical events. During one of our recent Briefings, Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan of Barefoot Wine joined us to discuss how to engage and empower your employees with a sales centric culture.

Barefoot Wine is currently a top global brand. It’s become known as the Levi Strauss of American wine. But it represents a lot more than just a wine label. It truly represents success. Success of a small start-up team that began in the laundry room and wound up in the board room of one of the world’s largest wine companies. Starting with no money and no knowledge of their industry, Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey bootstrapped a novelty brand into a top global icon. Doesn’t happen very often, and they did it. Relying on an entrepreneurial culture, they overcame formidable challenges in a highly competitive and controlled wine industry. They received the industry’s coveted Trend Setter, Fast Track Growth Brand, and Hot Brand awards for a number of years. They took this experience and created the New York Times Best Seller, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book details the journey into success – from a humble beginning to a nationwide blockbuster brand.

Since selling the company to E&J Gallo, Michael and Bonnie have been actively sharing their expertise. They’re speaking internationally. They’re corporate trainers. They’re contributors to many publications like Forbes, Inc., Investor’s Daily, and others. They’ve delivered keynotes at the World Conference on Entrepreneurship in Dublin, and at our own C-Suite Conference in Marina Del Ray in 2014. They’ve recently released a new book, The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. They offer several online courses, including “Skyrocket Sales and Engagement,” and “Spend Less-Monetize Faster with the Entrepreneur’s GPS”

First off, I’d like to ask how you both got into a business that you didn’t know anything about?

MH: Well, you know they say follow your passion, but we followed our opportunity passionately. It’s a little bit different. Bonnie had a client who wasn’t getting paid for his grapes. He was a grape-grower in the Sonoma County wine country of California. She said, “Maybe you can help?” I went over to the large winery that owed the grower for his grapes, which is now called Francis Ford Coppola Winery. When I got there, they had just declared bankruptcy. Meaning, they didn’t have to pay their creditors.

As I’m there and looking around, I see a row of tanks and a big bottling machine. I say, “Hey, wait a minute. If you guys can’t pay us in cash, what do you think about giving us wine in bulk and bottling services to pay off the debt?” And they said, “Great!” I went back to Bonnie, and I told her that I thought I had got it settled. However, this was a big debt to pay off. But now all we have is wine and bottling services. And she says:

BH: Well, now we’ve got a different kind of a problem. How do we turn this wine and bottling services into cash so we can pay the bills? That’s how Michael and I got in to this fix to start with. The grower was unable to take over another business. He had a full-time job as a wine-maker, in addition to having about 100 acres of vineyard. Michael and I kind of looked at each other and said, “I guess we’ll do it then!” Ignorance is bliss! We had no idea what we were getting in to.

I’ve backed myself into these kinds of things in the past, and it’s very educational. You’re breaking in to a business that’s highly controlled. It’s got a structure that everybody says, “Well this is just the way things are,” and you guys were able to break out of that, because you didn’t follow the rules. How did you step back and find a new approach that nobody else was doing?

BH: Well, first of all, we didn’t know the rules. That’s a good place to start, as it turned out. We went out and started asking a lot of questions. We asked questions of everyone on the production end. We asked people in the retail end, the buyers. We went out and asked consumers. We kind of put together a plan from really more the consumer outlook rather than production outlook.

Also, you looked at your customer being the person who is consuming the wine, not the person who was distributing the wine. A lot of people look at the distribution side, rather than going all the way to the end and the customer themselves, right?

MH: Right. We realized that we weren’t going to get to that customer unless we understood what the distributor wanted, and of course, everybody in the distribution channel wants a different thing, and none of it has to do with wine. However, the end user has a lot to do with wine, and price, and value, so to create that customer experience at the end user, we had to understand the distribution system. We did what we call “make friends in low places.” We talked to fork-lift operators. We talked to truckers. We talked to people who stock shelves in grocery stores. These are not necessarily the white collar folks that you would think you would go to for information. But what we learned is what was really happening in the real world at the street level. And because we did, we were able to put a package and a product together that got through the distribution system to the general public, and stayed in stock, which is really important.

Well you had some innovations on the distribution side to make it easy to assure the right product was in the right place. What did you do there?

MH: The main thing in retail distribution is that you’re only as good as your stock. If you’re selling a real product and it’s sold in retail, it has to be in stock. The worst customer experience is they love your product, but it’s out of stock. We had a situation in Minnesota where we couldn’t understand why we were consistently getting missed deliveries. We flew there, and we found out that it wasn’t stocked in the store even though it was authorized.

So we went to the distributor and asked why the product wasn’t delivered. We heard replies like, “That’s not our problem. That must be Ed. He’s in the back room. You have to go talk to him.” So we go to the warehouse, and we talk to Ed. He says, “No, you have to talk to Joey. He comes at midnight. He runs the forklift, and he picks the products off of the shelves in the warehouse to ship out to the retailers.”

I waited until midnight to talk to Joey. He says, “Get up on that forklift!” I said, “Okay” and I got up. He says, “What do you see?” I said, “Well, I see a big warehouse.” He says, “What do you think about the lighting?” I said, “It’s terrible. I can’t see anything.” He says, “That’s right. Read the label on that box over there.” I said, “Well, I can’t read it. Do you want us to make the labels larger?” He says, “No. Why don’t you make each box of each type of product that you have a different color. The whole box a different color.”

And so we color coded everything at Barefoot, and it not only reduced our missed deliveries and increased our in-stocks, but it also was a lot of fun. Each retail store would build lots of colorful stacks with our new boxes.

It seems like this might be a place where you saw that everybody who is on the street, from the forklift operator to the person delivering the stuff, is critical in the customer conversation. You created a culture within Barefoot that was very different. Let’s talk about the culture you created out of these experiences you had, and how it was different.

BH: We believed that the pyramid structure that most companies are in, really didn’t work because you’ve got the CEO and the VP on top and everyone else is below them and they take orders from the top. Well, we really wanted to support our customer, and we said, “How can you put the customer on top, when you put sales on the bottom?”

We thought, instead of having this pyramid structure, we would have a two-division company. The two-division company puts the customer on top, followed by sales, and everyone who is not in sales was in the sales-support division. So the accountant, everyone in production, the receptionist, the vice president, and even the president are all in sales-support. That was our main difference. That’s how we really distinguished ourselves as a company, was through the two-division company. The two divisions are sales and sales-support.

In order for that really to work, the sales division had to tell marketing and production the feedback that they were getting from customers. They were in touch with customers on a daily basis, and they knew what was going on at the retail level and the distribution level. Those two are our customers: the retailer and the distributor. They would get that information back to our company, and we would respond in production and marketing. That’s how we put the customer on top.

That’s interesting. How do you have a conversation with an accountant, or a receptionist, or somebody who’s in tech support, and explain to them that they are now sales-support? How do you help them see the picture of how that all works?

MH: We had a real situation where our accountant was giving us a lot of push back and saying, “Hey, I’m an accountant. I crunch numbers. I belong to the accounting association. I go to the accounting events. I’m an accountant. I don’t have anything to do with sales. How can I possibly affect sales?” We said, “You’re going to figure it out because your bonus is going to be based on sales.”

Sure enough, our salesperson gets an appointment with Mr. Big down in Florida for a big chain store. It comes at 5:00 at night for 8:00 the next morning. The guy has no time to prepare. He tells the accountant, “I need these numbers to prove to this buyer tomorrow morning at 8 that we’re selling like crazy in the surrounding states, and we need him to jump on the bandwagon. What can you do for me?” It’s 6:00 in the morning, and our salesperson had all of those numbers on his computer, and he was able to review them, print them out, and put a presentation together. He made the sale at 8:00. That’s an example of how somebody as obscure as an accountant can affect sales. Now, in a normal pyramid structure, the accountant would say, “Hey, did this go through proper channels? I’ve got it in my inbox, and I’ll get to it in a week or two, but I’ve got other priorities.” In other words, he doesn’t take a real interest in sales, per se. He’s more interested in getting his workload done. Our accountant stayed up all night to get those numbers to him.

I see how when you build a culture from the ground up, which is what you did with Barefoot, you’re able to bring this perspective because you’re creating the mindset from the ground up. What about a company that’s a traditional company? It’s got the pyramid structure. How do you help them see why this is valuable, and more importantly, how do you help them transition from the current structure to one of the two-division company structure?

MH: There’s quite a few ways to do it. I think the simple answer is they have to formalize communications between sales and customer service to marketing and production. A lot of pyramid structures like to tell you that sales is part of marketing, but marketing is actually in the corporate building and sales is outside. There’s this physical division in culture between the people you see at lunch and the people that come in once a month. We think that one of the things that you can do besides having these formal connections between these departments within the pyramid silo structure is the money map.

BH: The real idea of the money map is to help new hires understand where the money that goes into their paychecks, their bonuses and all their benefits comes from. So they don’t come to you and say, “Well I’ve been here for two years. I want a raise.” The way you get a raise is you increase the amount of money that goes into the pot that goes to everybody’s salary and benefits. And that’s why we created the money map. So no one thought we had a big pile of money in the back, and we’d just scoop it up and throw it in your trunk every month.

Now, I suppose that most of your audience already understands where the money comes from. The benefit that any company can have by creating their own money map is to let the new hires understand where the money comes from. It comes from the end-user, which is in the community in our case. You have the customer who is going shopping. Picking up her product. Giving her money to the clerk. Part of that money goes to overhead. Part of it goes to the wholesaler. Then the money comes in to our company. We’ve only got about half the money that the customer spent going into our company. Then we pay the suppliers, our overhead. We’ve got maybe a buck or less that goes into the big pot of everybody’s salary. If you want to increase that pot, you increase sales. I say if you want someone to do something, put a buck on it. People respond to money. This, the Money Map, is our way of showing you how you can put more bucks in your pocket, and that’s by getting more customers to buy your products.

MH: This money map is going to look different in every company. However, they say when the cement is wet you can move it with a trowel. When it gets hard you need a jackhammer. So you’ve got wet cement when you’re on-boarding people. The question is, what does the trowel look like? What are you giving people? Are you just saying, “Here’s the coffee. If you hurt yourself there’s forms in the office.” Is that your idea of orientation? Or, are you actually telling people all of the steps that your company’s product or service has to go through to get to the general public. A lot of companies say, “No, I’m B2B. This doesn’t affect me.” Well we were B2B. We sold to a wholesaler. We could have said that’s it. No – We found out if we didn’t sell to the retailer for the wholesaler, the wholesaler didn’t reorder. And if we didn’t sell to the general public for the retailer, then the retailer didn’t reorder. So even though we were B2B, we were actually B2B2C. I think that is the realization that you have to get across to your people when they’re hired. It gives them more appreciation for the steps involved, and then as they’re working in their job, they start to see how their job affects this whole supply chain.

It’s interesting because you talked about that from a marketing perspective. B2B or B2C. Those things are collapsing. It’s really B to whoever is in the customer chain. The whole customer chain from you to the person ultimately using this product is who you need to pay attention to. And you did something really innovative, and something around cause marketing which changed in some ways the game in the wine industry.

BH: When we began, we called it worthy cause marketing, because we started so long ago that there wasn’t really a name for what we were doing. We wanted to get the attention of the end users and make them aware of our products. The way we did this was by supporting worthy causes within their community – through local fundraisers and non-profit organizations that were raising funds. We wouldn’t just donate our product, but we would go there and help them set up. We would help them to bring in more clients by providing the non-profit information to the retailer. We could do that by putting signs on our bottles to alert the community about this non-profit organization or event that was taking place.

We would ask for things from the non-profit that cost the non-profit nothing. We would talk to their supporters about why we were supporting this cause, and where they could buy our product within that area. So that was of great interest to the retailer. The retailer appreciated that we were bringing in new shoppers. We’d go to a retailer and say, “There’s a non-profit event that’s taking place a couple blocks from here, and what we would like to do is put this sign that says where to buy Barefoot on the table so the supporters can pick it up. Would you like to be on this list?” The retailers said, “Yeah, I really do appreciate that non-profit, and I do want to be on that list so people can come in and buy the product.” We said, “Great! Where do you want the stack?” That enabled us to get more retailers to take our product.

You’re the epitome of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs don’t live by the rules. Entrepreneurs say, “I have a problem and I’ll find a solution. I don’t know how the solution is going to happen there, but we’ll find it out.” You guys continually, over and over again, kept running up against things that looked insurmountable, and you just kept working until you had a solution that worked for both parties.

MH: Yes, we kept going until we found a solution! If you go to www.barefootbonus.com, you are going to receive all the guides that we discussed during this presentation. You’re also going to receive six free chapters from our new book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. We actually wrote this book for this C-Suite. It is outtakes from our New York Times Best Seller, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. We said, let’s just synthesize that out, and put a book together that’s about as thick as one airplane ride so that the C-Suiters can read it and actually cut and paste these ideas into their own corporations. We’re offering, for free, six chapters. We think you’ll enjoy them. We talk about how to build this kind of entrepreneurial culture in a corporation. It’s not impossible, but it requires a different view of things. A different outlook.

*Visit www.barefootbonus.com to download the presentation from this Executive Briefings event.

Growth Management Personal Development

Commercial Cards Modernize the Payments Process and Enhance Supplier Relationships

Our competitive and global business climate requires C-level executives to maintain visibility into spending and constantly look for ways to make every dollar count. A payment strategy that relies on electronic payments is an important first step. As part of that strategy, you can take advantage of commercial card program benefits to drive down costs, forecast cash flow, optimize liquidity opportunities, and enhance valuable supplier relationships.

Consider that 50% of payables are still paper-based1 and each check costs, on average, $30 per item to process and handle.2   Commercial cards can be used not only for purchasing and expenses, but inventory and capital expenditures as well. 

“Progressive leaders looking to improve process efficiencies, cash visibility, and forecasting, recognize that making the relatively simple move toward using commercial cards is the logical solution for payments.”

–Ranjana Clark, Head of Transaction Banking, MUFG Union Bank, N.A.

Download White Paper:

Learn more about transformative ePayables strategies: download the MUFG Commercial Cards white paper here.

About MUFG:
MUFG Union Bank, N.A. is a member of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), one of the world’s leading financial institutions. Learn more about our
Commercial Card program at mufgamericas.com/commercial-cards

Contact a MUFG ePayables specialist at 214-468-7829 or visit mufgamericas.com/commercialcards for more information.

1Electronic Payments Survey, Association of Financial Professionals, 2013.

2 Ibid.

The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about commercial card and is not considered advice from MUFG and MUFG Union Bank, N.A.

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