Category: Entrepreneurship


The “No Flip” Entrepreneur

February 26th, 2014

Most entrepreneurs aren’t trying to create a technology revolution with an innovation that advances society in some unique way. That is just what the media reports because it makes for better articles. Imagine the impact of the twenty-something changing the world and selling it quickly for lots of money. Impressive for sure. And I imagine important in some way to our economy. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology as a tool in my business. Over 13 years, 52 quarters, and 156 months, I have operated and ran my company. I went into the details there for a reason. Most of us do not build our companies to flip them. Very few have goals to get Venture Capital or Institutional monies invested into their business. Even fewer have high hopes of an IPO.

smallgiantsMy goal was to run my company for nine years. This was in my first business plan. (Which, by the way, was 88 pages long!) Call it my Jerry Maguire version of the talent industry. The nine years were set to give me time to build it, boot strap it, grow it, sell it, and cash out. Then something happened. Call it life I guess. Time went by, we began to receive awards, and employees came and employees went. Markets changed for our services so we adapted and responded with new ones. The Economy roared and then spurted almost to a stop—Ironically in year eight! So, plans are set for a reason. Plans drive a stake in the ground. And when you get there you start all over again.

One of my mentors who runs a national consulting company once challenged me on my nine year plan, “Chris, do you like your company? Does it provide for you and your family as well as your employees? Do you serve customers that count on you?” Then he added, “Why not have it both ways? Enjoy and celebrate what you have accomplished and always work on making it better.”

I would rather focus on how my company or my customers can be profitable, create a measurable Outside-In® experience, and maintain a values based environment and culture that is unique, even quirky in its efforts to be authentic.

I want to have a “boring” company. Predictable revenues. Managed growth. I want to maintain a caring environment that not only focuses on the health and vitality of the culture, but also develops the discipline and practices to have a well-executed business strategy.

There are many entrepreneurial leaders out there that are in it for the long haul. We have worked long and hard to get our business’s out of the proverbial garage and into something relevant in our industries. We are Small Giants, forces to be reckoned with that don’t feel the need to sell out to be the biggest, but instead, choose to be the greatest.

Boiling Down the State of People in the Clinical/Scientific Industry

February 24th, 2014

Jobs and People by the Numbers

BioScience-Job-GrowthBased on the numbers in our infographic below (scroll down to take a look!), we know that number of jobs in the Clinical/Scientific Industry have been increasing, predicted to be at 97% of peak levels in 2014, and also anticipated to continue to grow through to 2022 by 10%. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations will continue to remain center stage, with more than one in four employers (26%) planning to create jobs in these areas over the next 12 months.

We also know that clinical/scientific jobs are at the top of the list of skillsets for which employers need help finding qualified potentials. And that 60% of CFO’s say it is somewhat or very challenging to find skilled candidates for professional-level positions today.

Finally, when it comes to workers, we know that more professionals are seeking new jobs in 2014 than they have been in prior years since the recession. While various sources present drastically different percentages of workers that will look for a new job this year, they report that in 2014 the percentage is greater than it has been since the recession. Our sources also note that workers are more optimistic about the outlook of the coming year.

CareerBuilder states that, “A drop in job satisfaction may account for the expected rise in turnover.” The percentage of workers that are satisfied with their jobs dropped from 66% in 2013 to 59% this year; and those that are dissatisfied rose from 15% last year to 18% in 2014. The top reasons cited for dissatisfaction are salary (66%) and not feeling valued (65%).

So, how can we boil all this down?

At the Outside-In® Companies, we see these numbers in action daily while serving our customers in the pharmaceutical and bioscience industries. More companies are hiring for positions so demand is high, which makes recruiting quality candidates more difficult. With this shortage of people, companies have to be creative in their recruiting. So taking advantage of the positive outlook both c-suite executives AND workers have for the coming year, how can employers identify and win over great candidates?

Here are five tips for your company to consider:

Marketing Your Company: Workers may feel optimistic about the coming year, however they won’t take the decision to jump jobs lightly. Your company needs to market itself to potential candidates so they become aware of who you are and what makes you so great. Understand that this is a long-term investment, that changing the market’s perception of you will take time and you won’t see the pay off immediately. In many cases, the market doesn’t know about you, doesn’t know much about you, or they think negative things about you – so focus on increasing your brand’s awareness and generating a positive impression on people so they want to work for you.

Beef-up Your Employee Referral Program: Your employees already work for you for one reason or another, which makes them some of your best assets! Encourage your people to bring their friends on board – they are likely to have similar interests and similar values that will fit in with your culture. You can encourage employees by simply asking them to refer people they know for current openings, but also consider how you can “pay” people for their efforts. Many companies offer bonuses when employees’ referrals are hired, or when the person sticks around for 6 months. Good employee referral programs are often the top source of hiring!

Perk Up Your Benefits: Sure, people may be considering switching jobs this year, but with salary and “feeling valued” at the top of the list for dissatisfaction, they need to know that they will be getting better benefits in a new job. How does your compensation compare to your competition? How does your culture recognize its people? “Offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. In this market, the candidates are calling the shots – so what do you have to offer them that is shinier than what they currently have?

Consider Temps and Independent Contractors: The Bureau of Labor Statistics released on February 7th that there were 2.78 million contract and temp workers in the temporary help services industry in the U.S. 2.78 million is the largest number of temps in the workforce ever. More workers are pursuing contract work or being independent consultants, so consider bringing quality candidates in as independent contractors. The world is going temp, so this is likely a good option for bringing in the best people for the job.

Location, Location, RELOCATION:
With a shortage of quality applicants and trouble finding the right people, your company might want to consider relocation. By expanding your search outside your geographic region, you can easily increase your candidate pool. You’ll want to look back at tip #3 to help convince people to make such a move to work for you, but it’s probably worth it so you don’t have to keep scratching your head looking at the same resumes again and again.

Infographic – Presenting the Numbers

Why are You Building Your Business?

January 16th, 2014

In my entrepreneurial circles I often hear discussion and debate around why a business exists. Although a business exists to solve a customer problem or to create value for its shareholders, that is not the point I am trying to get at. Why did you start your business to begin with?

So many owners find themselves accidental entrepreneurs. Perhaps their business was a family business that they took over from a friend or other family member. Sometimes, believe it or not, people literally stumble into their companies. The entrepreneur is good at something and people are willing to pay them for that product or service. Before they know it they have a business that is failing, growing, or something in between.

site-196210_640I am often asked for advice on starting companies. The questions are practical and tangible. Where should I put the business? What do I call it? How do we test this product or service? Is there a market for it? Can we build a business to scale and profit around the concept? These are all wonderful, classic MBA book type questions. They have their place. You simply can’t start with them.

I ask all entrepreneurs to start with the question, What is the purpose of this business? In other words, why does it exist for you as its founder (and most likely first investor). At the very least, it is your credit card and sweat equity that gets it started, right?

Most people start their business because they have decided to make a change from their past.  They have chosen to be a small business owner to fulfill a dream, perhaps to avoid working in big business again, or often with dreams of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams.

I take people through the following questions to get at a different starting point. Why do you need this business to exist?

  • Are you building this business to draw from it and then it might simply end? In other words, is this a cottage business that pays the bills but has nothing to transfer to someone else in the form of a sale?
  • Are you building something you want to be a legacy? Do you have family or others in your life that you want to pass on this potential wealth-creating vehicle too? I know you just got this idea to start a business and I am talking about its ending. Without this thinking, I see long term frustration and confusion. Too many small business owners get trapped in a company that does not serve their long-term needs.
  • billboard-63978_640Are you trying to flip this business? Is your goal to build it like an internet company and sell it and walk away? Do you want to grow this and get early-stage seed money? Do you intend to work with VC’s to grow to the point where you want to take private equity monies? Since 4% of companies get above 1 mm in sales this might seem like a tall order. You must stop and think about this sort of thing. In this path, founders lose control of their business and they give up ownership. This “takes chips off the table” as they say, however, you still lose control of the strategy of the business and its direction.
  • Are you building this to sell? Do you have a date circled on the calendar? Don’t laugh, I did. I had a 9 year plan. Well, guess what? I am in year 13, soon to be 14! Sometimes wanting to build something of value and selling it is not what you think you want.

This gets me to my main point: If you’re thinking of building your business to sell—stop and think. A favorite entrepreneurial friend challenged me a few years ago, “Chris, if you like your company and its culture, and it’s providing a valuable service for customers and meaningful work for employees, why do you think you need to sell it? It seems like you spent all of this time to get it to where you are and where you want to take it?”

I sense Rob was right. We all read the same articles and learn the same best practices in business. Sometimes staying put and enjoying the ride is the only and best option.

Use these questions to test why your idea or existing business might exist. I would love to hear from you with your thoughts!

Leadership: Vacation or Values?

January 8th, 2014

I once worked with a leader of a local business who told me the greatest stories of his early years in running his company. Most of them revolved around the tough decisions that leaders face. One time, when his business was just a few years old, he went on a family vacation.  These vacations were rare. His wife and kids did not ask for much. This was their time. Besides, he needed the break to recharge and rejuvenate on so many levels.

Then he got a dreaded call. A trusted employee shared intel that the employees were making their own rules, coming and going when they pleased, and were covering it up. Asking her to also participate, get her buy-in so to speak, by incriminating herself in action! She said no and called the boss. Thank goodness. This was a service business. Customers calls and requests were not being responded to. In fact, they even left her to run the business for extended periods of time!

rear-mirror-167581_640So what does a leader do when they get this kind of call? They sit in their car on the side of the road for several hours weighing their options. If I ignore it, I can go back to the beach with my family. I can simply deal with it later. Not perfect, but I deserve the downtime. However, this is about culture and values. Your culture is what people do when they are alone at 3 am. Culture is your company personality. Values are those key guide posts that drive behaviors when you’re not around. Well, you’re not around and the values are not being lived. What do you do?

You get in the car and drive right to the office. In the end you let a few people go and you warn a few others. All in all, you make it clear what your leadership is all about and that values matter. Especially if it means you will have to work harder and start over in your business. Even if you’re inconvenienced during your time off.

Curiously, I am not sure if this is truth or a great leadership fable. I am not sure it matters one bit in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what you would do as a leader. Would you take the path of least resistance? Stay on your vacation? Or drive home? I like to dream that I would get in the car and prove that culture and values matter!

Outside-In® Companies Radio Interview on Jobs in the New year

January 7th, 2014

Chris Barton of the Outside-In® Companies was featured on the WDEL afternoon news on New Years Eve to discuss trends for jobs and the economy in 2014 with host Allan Loudell. Watch this video to hear a recording of his radio spot.


 
To listen to more WDEL radio podcasts, visit the WDEL website.

2014 Recruiting and Workforce Trends

December 31st, 2013

As a workforce and work place expert, we’d like to share our view of the 2014 workforce. After reviewing the numbers and statistics from 2013, here are 14 staffing trends to look out for in 2014.

  1. In November of 2013 the economy had more temporary jobs than any month but April of 2000. The number of temporaries as a percentage of the total workforce (called the penetration rate rose above Octobers’ number from 2.03 from 2.02 percent of the total workforce. This represents 2,775,900 workers in the temporary field. These numbers reflect the commitment of business to find ways to keep their workforce more flexible and adaptable to economic fluctuations and marketplace changes. You can expect this trend to continue and for 2014 to be the year that more temporaries than ever before are in the workforce.
  2. 2014 will continue to show improvements for college grads. Unemployment rates for college level unemployment fell .4% points to 3.4 from 3.8%.
  3. Unemployment rates will continue to decline. Currently at 7.0% down from 7.6% in May of this year. 2014 will bring the end to the 7’s as we slowly, gradually, almost painfully lower the rate!
  4. Monthly job creation numbers will continue to be above 200k jobs next year. The US created more then 200k jobs just a handful of times in 2013. This will become the norm rather than the highlight reel moment!
  5. You can expect 200,000 to retire per month. The statistics suggest that 10,000 a day/ 300,000 a month is plausible. Even with an improved stock market and stabilizing housing prices, the number is probably adjusting down a little.
  6. The new workers entering workforce have been thought to be balancing or replenishing retired workers. Expect the numbers of retirees to increase and the numbers of workers to be relatively flat. This could further lower unemployment in 2014.
  7. Technical fields will continue to show strong demand. These are good times to be in accounting, finance, IT, engineering or “ist” fields in the sciences (i.e. chemist or biologist).
  8. Organizations will continue to shift their business strategies, thus impacting their people. Look for more firms to focus on meeting the needs of workers that go through a reduction in force (RIF). Studies show that the focus is on getting people jobs first and doing what is right for the firm second. More and more outplacement will be done through virtual/technology driven models that lower costs of services but meet the changing needs of the worker! Office space is no longer important… and updated, contemporary coaching content will never go out of fashion!
  9. Never before in the history of the modern workforce will it be more evident that employees are fully responsible for their own careers as workforce trends confirm the end of the “parental role” big companes used to play.
  10. The Rise of the Coach. Today’s employee uses a coach to lose weight, achieve personal goals, to learn new skills in business as a high performer, and to manage their career. Look for the HR field’s (more likely and entrepreneur!) response to the needs of the workforce and to become their agent in 2014!
  11. Temporary staffing utilization is up over 8% this year. Expect that number to be exceeded in 2014 as more small and mid-market companies get comfortable utilizing a contract workforce!
  12. This is the year the underemployed make a change. The number of people that are chronically underemployed in lesser jobs or in jobs that provide less hours of work then desired see modest improvement. With unemployment being as low as April of 2008, this worker pool will be next in line!
  13. Jobs growth and creation will continue to be frustrating. Some markets and cities will see strong job creation, while others will continue to lose job sectors and industries at an alarming rate. Job growth will not be everywhere, instead you’ll see it in pockets!
  14. Overall, you can expect businesses to modestly increase hiring plans in 2014. But the use of temporaries will continue to rise as the business strategy behind using a contingent workforce continues to have a higher adoption rate.

Here’s to a great year for the workforce!

What if Santa Decided to Use a Few Temporary Elves?

December 18th, 2013

elf2We have all seen the holiday movies that suggest that perhaps it is time for Santa to modernize the factory, get some of his lead elves certified in Six Sigma, or to employ lean manufacturing in his workshop. Gone should be the days of elves singing Christmas carols, eating cookies, and making toys from scratch. The days of that sort of craftsmanship and artisan work are long gone as the nice list runs into the millions.

I am a contingent workforce expert. My Outside-In® Companies help leaders like Santa make sense of the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. And well, Santa does things the old fashioned way with his people, I mean elves. Today’s toy workshops have challenges in staffing and productivity during the busy season. Imagine Santa’s workshop in the weeks and months leading up to the big day! More importantly, what does he do with all of those elves in January?

I propose that Santa would benefit from a temporary elf workforce. Santa could bring in new skill sets and the workshop would flourish with new ideas and concepts. Those hard to fill roles might get the attention they deserve during the busiest of times.

lisaelfjNow, Santa would have to consider today’s laws and hiring standards. No longer can he claim that the measured height of his workshop is a legitimate bona fide job requirement. OSHA made him change that in the winter of ‘82. It just might be a good thing to see a few more guys and gals that look like Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel on the Big Man’s campus. A little diversity is important. Santa needs to keep up with his Affirmative Action Plan as people now live at the North Pole, too.

Most importantly? Santa can staff up and professionally work with the Outside-In® Companies to wind down post-holiday season. Rather than having elves paint the workshop and sweep the floor each and every day, Santa can feel confident that his staffing partner is redeploying his elfen talent that was there for the “busy season.” When one Holiday ends, another begins. Perhaps we can skill-market that talent to the Easter Bunny and have a temporary workforce plant hidden eggs around the globe?

12 Things You Get with the Entrepreneurial Employee

October 30th, 2013

Big global companies are looking for employees to be more entrepreneurial. What exactly does that mean? When we go to work for most jobs we must be productive during the time we work. Do the job, do what you’re told, and your contract with your employer is kept in tact. What is so different and unique about getting an employee with entrepreneurial drive?

  1. An entrepreneurial employee gets the rare opportunity to consistently redefine their role and, therefore, their contribution. You may have been hired for one thing, but you’re good at something else. Or more frankly, an opportunity emerges for those are willing to take a risk and go for it!
  2. By making something extraordinary happen, an entrepreneurial employee is rewarded. Doing your job is doing something innovative or special with that project.
  3. An employee can get exposure to bigger and different work much, much faster than they would in a large company.
  4. man-96868_640It is OK to take risks. In fact, risk taking is more likely to be rewarded. A big company wants to limit their exposure to risks. Small businesses know that well calculated and timely decision making can mean the difference between growth, a new market, or even if you win a deal.
  5. Change is something that is encouraged when staff is not defending/preserving what they have because there is much less power base or turf to lose. You must think differently. This is where an employee can see what is wrong and know that it is ok to speak up about it. These littlechanges make all the difference.
  6. Titles mean nothing to an entrepreneurial employee. Those that demand them rarely make it for long. The job must be about the work and the work must be about the learning experience and depth of the opportunities.
  7. Your status comes from your accomplishments. Your position comes from the quality of your relationships and influence on the business. This is simply small business culture.
  8. Entrepreneurial employees have an ownership mindset. Their work is a direct reflection of themselves. It is easier to gets things done. Less politics, less hands involved.
  9. Know that being a good teammate matters. There are fewer employees, and perhaps limited resources. However, entrepreneurial employees know that they must work on their teaming skills as work gets done with people—not because of fear, title, or demands!
  10. Entrepreneurial employees are accountable. They want to feel and see that they are truly making a difference.
  11. An entrepreneurial employee can answer the “why” question. They know why the company exists and its broader purpose. They are a part of something special; something bigger than themselves—and that shows.
  12. An entrepreneurial employee knows that they are deferring some of their potential income. They can always go get a job! But they get to be a part of so much more of how their company works. They are a part of crafting the company future and can see how their work contribution connects to it! And for that risk, they gain knowledge and work experiences that make them more marketable and give them the potential to be future business owners themselves!

shield-108065_640There are inherent differences between entrepreneurial organizations and big companies. An entrepreneurial employee likes a dynamic, evolving, and constantly changing environment. They thrive in companies with less structure and less certainty because there are more ways for them to innovate and to contribute. In small business culture they have the opportunity to be rewarded more in an environment where they are constantly learning and growing!

CBI Group Makes The Philadelphia 100 for Fourth Time Since 2005

October 21st, 2013

Guest blog spot by Caitlin Olszewski, Communications & Design Coordinator

CBI Group is pleased to announce our inclusion in the Philadelphia 100 list for the fourth time, making us one of the most consistently growing entrepreneurial companies in the region.

efe_philly100-2013-largeThe Philadelphia 100 is a prestigious awards program that honors the fastest growing, privately-held companies in the area. It was founded in 1988 through the Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia to promote young, successful companies. The program has previously recognized CBI Group in 2005, 2006, and 2007. This year marks the momentous achievement of being able to emerge from the recession more successful than ever. Our continued growth and entrepreneurial spirit secured us a spot on this year’s list at #25. CBI Group aspires to see continued advancement and success following the official partnership affirmed earlier this year with fellow Outside-In® Companies—Placers and Barton Career Advisors.

Founder & CEO Chris Burkhard credits the achievements of the business to the fact that the company has always been customer-centric and results-driven. “Success comes from working hard on making the little things of our business more Outside-In® every day,” said Burkhard, “and frankly, not doing it for the awards or recognition. Always putting our customers first seems to bring its own reward and recognition!”

In addition to the Philadelphia 100 award, CBI Group has recently earned a spot on the Inc. 5000 list along with two ‘2013 Honors’ including a #11 ranking in the Top 100 Delaware Companies and a #69 ranking in Philadelphia Metro Area sub-categories.

If you would like to learn more about The Philadelphia 100 please visit www.philadelphia100.com.

Finders. Minders. And Binders.

September 25th, 2013

ID-100170525Risk in the early years does not seem like risk at all! When I started my business and a customer sent over a contract to review I did not have the army of lawyers and professional service folks that are around to protect me today. The contract came in, I printed it off, read all 83 pages, learned as much as I could and then I signed it. Why? Most of that stuff isn’t going to happen anyway, right? Well, even though it was true, I signed it because making something happen in the business was a much better outcome than the alternative—watching lawyers markup and edit a document over and over again. The risk of signing a bad contract was lesser than the gain of working with a new customer, testing out our service line, gaining the revenues, cash flow, references, and the experiences that the contract provided.

This concept plays out across your entire business. My first employee was hired with a verbal acceptance. They worked for me for years and they had no offer letter—imagine that! We got along fine without a handbook. Everything was understood. We just stood and talked across the office. The purpose for the company was simple and clear.

Accounting was just as simple. We paid bills, invoiced customers, and made sure that there was enough money in the bank to do payroll. Then someone comes in to lead accounting and they want to build a budget like their last job in Corporate America. The budget process starts in the Fall, finishes by the New Year, and becomes outdated by February. Small business moves too fast and changes too much for a traditional budgeting process.

A business can expect to see this in all facets of the organization. The “little company that could” designs a marketing campaign and tries it without upsetting corporate. As the business grows, it eventually has a team whose job it is to keep that spirit and make marketing better. Staff members who often want to just go and fix things now have to remember who does what.  And in the process they often ask the question, “Why are we organized this way? It just slows us down…”

Years ago I heard a famous entrepreneur, the founder of Hercules, answer that question with a compelling speech about business and entrepreneurship. He shared that there are three types of people in business: finders, minders, 110819-Gulliksen-Slide3and binders. “Finders” start the business and figure out their market and their customer. They turn themselves and the business “outward” (Outside-In® in my world) and they focus on growth and winning. But as the business grows and gets more and more complex it requires different skills and expertise to keep advancing. Enter the “minders.” Minders are the functional talents that come in across the business to do a better job of keeping track of the company. Important and necessary. They are minding the store so to speak and helping create the scorecard of success.

And finally there are the “binders.” If you’re an entrepreneur this is where you exit perhaps. Binders are like the son who tells his Dad (a successful sandwich shop owner) to stop giving away free chips and pickles and to reduce his portion sizes because these are recessionary times. Of course the Dad listens and soon enough business is way down. The son was wrong! The binder ended up screwing up the secret sauce/brand promise of the sandwich shop. And a good business is withered away by the strain and scrutiny.

All three dynamics are contributing factors to the development of business. A finder’s role is to build the early business. Know when to bring in enough minders to keep the business orderly. Avoid the binder influence and phase of the business. Or know how to exit when the business achieves that level of “success.”

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