BusinessJournal More design f lexibility for More design your building.

f lexibility More design for
The Region’s Business Publication
January 2014

More design your building. f lexibility for f lexibility for your building. your building. More design flexibility for your building.
• Retirement Planning • Electrical Contracting News • Career Development
©2012 BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. All rights reserved. Butler Manufacturing™ is a division of BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc.
©2012 BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. All rights reserved. Butler Manufacturing™ is a division of BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc.
©2012 BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. All rights reserved. Butler Manufacturing™ is a division of BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc.

National Door & Trim is expanding its facility located on Grill Road in Van Wert’s Vision Industrial Park. The company is nearing completion on the addition of showroom office space. The company was founded in 1978 and its primary products include pre-finished doors and trims that are ready to install. In recent years, the company has added custom kitchens and custom hardwood flooring to its list of products. Tom Turnwald, president of National Door and Trim, stated that the driving need for this expansion is to showcase the company’s existing and new products. “When things were slow-

Company creating 30 new jobs in Van Wert Unverferth to expand
est for us (during the housing market collapse) was 2009,” Turnwald stated. He noted that during that slow period, the company worked on expanding their product lines. “We’ve been growing for the past three years and these new products require retail National Door & Trim is nearing completion on the adspace to show them,” Turn- dition of a showroom and additional office space to their wald explained. building. As part of the company’s expansion, 30 new jobs The company’s current fa- will be created. cility is approximately 75,000 have begun to invest in capi- the customer services and ultisquare feet. The showroom ad- tal projects to meet the needs mately increase sales and emdition is around 2,600 square of customers,” stated Cindy ployment.” feet and the new office space Leis, Van Wert County EcoThe company will eventuis 1,300 square feet. nomic Development director. ally be creating 30 new jobs, “The expansion is an indi- “The expansion is in an effort according to Turnwald. The cation that progress is being to promote new products and company currently employs made in our Vision Indus- expand their customer base, trial Park and that companies which will overall improve See COMPANY, page 4


manufacturing in Van Wert County

You might be surprised to discover the virtually unlimited design You might be surprised to discover the virtually unlimited design possibilities of a Butler building®system. As your local Butler Builder, ® possibilities of aand Butler building system. As your local Butler Builder, we can build a flexible attractive Butler building that incorporates wood, brick, stone, or glass. You can also choose from a wide variety we can build a flexible and attractive Butler building that incorporates of metal roof and wall systems—all in a building that meets both your wood, brick, stone, or glass. You can also choose from a wide variety needs and your budget. of metal roof and wall systems—all in a building that meets both your needs and your budget.
® ®

More design f lexibility for
Contact us at 419-238-9567 or visit us on the web
Contact us at 419-238-9567 or visit us on the web

You might be surprised to discover the and virtually unlimited design needs your budget. ® ® UNVERFERTH, page 5 possibilities of a Butler building system. As your local ButlerSee Builder , we can build a flexible and attractive Butler building that incorporates wood, brick, stone, or glass. You can also choose from a wide variety of metal roof and wall systems—all in a building that meets both your needs and your budget.

Staff Report DELPHOS — Kalida’s Unverferth Manufacturing announced on Dec. 13 they expect to add 1520 new jobs as the result of a 70,000-square-foot expansion to the Delphos facility. The facility was chosen for expansion after an agreement was finalized with AEP Ohio for relocation of a section of subtransmission that crosses the west side of the Unverferth property, which is where the addition will be located. New machinery and equipment will be added in the expanded area. “Expansions such as this are made possible by the continued commitment of our employees in producing high-quality, in-demand products and with the cooperation of AEP and Van Wert County in encouraging our growth,” Larry Unverferth, director of manufacturing operations said. AEP Ohio is providing Unverferth Manufacturing with an Economic Development RSP Grant totaling $100,000 to assist in the relocation of power The RSP Grant program provides financial asYou might surprised to discover the virtually unlimited design 6 be lines. sistance to new and existing industries for projects ® possibilities that of acreate Butler building system. As your local Butler Bu and retain jobs and generate new investment within the AEP Ohio service territory. we can build a flexible and attractive Butler building that incorpora “AEP Ohio is pleased to partner with Van Wert 9 wood, brick, stone, orin glass. You Unverferth can also choose from a wide variet County assisting Manufacturing with their Delphos plant expansion” stated Tim Wells, of metal wall systems—all in a building that meets both yo 10 roof and AEP manager of economic & business development

The Business Journal 405 N. Main St. Delphos, OH 45833

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Contact us at 419-238-9567 or visit us on the web

Alexander & Bebout, Inc.
Contact us at 419-238-9567 or visit us on the web

10098 Lincoln Highway Van Wert, Ohio

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Rebecca Spieles promoted to branch manager at Citizens National Bank

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Rebecca Spieles Citizens National Bank (CNB) has named Rebecca (Becky) Spieles as Branch Manager of their Van Wert office. In this position, Spieles is responsible for branch oversight, including daily operations, sales and financial performance. Rebecca has over 15 years experience in the banking industry and has been employed with CNB since 2011, working in their Lima office as a Customer Service Representative. Margaret Thompson, AVP/ Branch Operations Coordinator, said of Spieles, “Her dedication to customer service and knowledge of financial principles has played an important role in the success of our bank. We are pleased to acknowledge her many contributions with this promotion.” Spieles previously attended Rhodes State College and has completed additional enrichment coursework from the Ohio Bankers League. She is an active member of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Rebecca and her husband, Drew, reside in Delphos, OH and have two children and one grandchild. With offices in Bluffton, Celina, Defiance, Elida, Findlay, Lima, Springfield and Van Wert, Citizens National Bank has assets totaling more than $600 million and has been serving the communities of West Central Ohio since 1920.

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January 2014

By Cheryl Parson, President Better Business Bureau Serving West Central Oho

Bogus businesses ready to take your money

This is the time of year that companies set goals for the upcoming year. Build sales figures. Time to market and promote the firm. Optimism and expectations abound. This is also the time bogus and fraudulent companies begin trotting out great marketing opportunities for businesses – especially small businesses - everything from spots on place mats, maps, or calendars to traditional or online yellow pages as well as various internet sites.

of West Central Ohio
Volume 23, No. 1 Publisher: Donald R. Hemple Contributing Writers Jeffrey Gitomer Advertising: Donald R. Hemple
The Business Journal is mailed to the top business leaders in the 13-county region of West Central Ohio. Although information is gathered from sources considered to be reliable, the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed. Information expressed in The Business Journal does not constitute a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any products. Copyright, The Business Journal of West Central Ohio, 2006, All rights reserved. Reproduction or use, without written permission of editorial, photographic or other graphic content in any manner is prohibited. The Business Journal is published monthly at 405 N. Main St., Delphos, OH 45833

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Contact Us Telephone Don Hemple Marilyn Hoffman toll free 419-999-4762 419-695-0015 ext. 138 419-695-0015 ext. 131 800-589-6950

But before you commit your company’s hard earned funds to these “marketing opportunities” take time to take a deep breath and be cautious. First and foremost, don’t be pressured into agreeing to anything immediately. Ask how you can reach the salesperson if you decide that you want to purchase the services. Check to make sure the businesses they claim are using the product or service offered really are. Get references from those users and samples of materials produced before you agree to buy. Contact the references and ask if the work was completed on time and the materials were distributed as promised. If the company making the offer is not from your area, shop and compare services and prices locally. It is often less expensive to produce advertising materials yourself by dealing with a local business. If you don’t know of a local vendor for the proposed services, a quick check with your Chamber of Commerce may be of great help. It is helpful to know if problems with the company have already been reported. Check its complaint record with the Better Business Bureau or your local or state consumer protection agencies. If you decide to buy, always get a written contract that includes the company’s name, address, and telephone number, the price and payment schedule, as well as a description of the product and materials, the number that will be produced, and the date and plan for distribution. Never pay the full amount up front. Instead hold out a substantial amount until you have received confirmation that the materials have been produced and distributed according to the contract. Help prevent other businesses from getting scammed by reporting fraudulent sales of advertising materials to law enforcement officials and the Better Business Bureau.

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January 2014



Engineering company expands into Troy location
Troy, Ohio – FDH Inc. ings as well. Along with has recently leased the this property on Stanfield building at 2001 W. StanDrive, Gary currently has field Road in Troy, Ohio. a 5,000 SF stand alone inFDH is a company that dustrial facility available provides a combination of at 635 Olympic Drive in engineering, investigation Troy. and construction manageTim Echemann of Inment services to clientele dustrial Property Brokers, in the commercial, govwho brokered the deal, ernmental, industrial and stated, “We knew this telecommunications marvery attractive industrial kets. Since 1994, they property with its high imhave been a global leader age brick façade and large Tim Echemann in non-destructive testing paved lot was not going to civil infrastructure. Based out of Ra- last long. This facility was destined to leigh, N.C., FDH also has locations in be occupied in the thriving community St. Louis, MO, Baton Rouge, LA, and of Troy, Oh.” Irvine, CA. Industrial Property Brokers is a The owner of the Stanfield Road premier full service real estate comfacility, Gary Osterfeld of Troy RE pany offering sales, leasing, investInvestments LLC, is a Cincinnati ment analysis, tenant representation, investor with a background in con- and property management throughout struction and commercial buildings Western Ohio and Eastern Indiana.  and specializes in properties located The company is located at 213 N. Ohio along I-75. Gary boldly made invest- Ave., Sidney, Ohio. For more informaments in a down market and purchased tion visit spec buildings and fully leased build- or call 937-492-4423.

FDH Inc. is located at 2001 W. Stanfield Road in Troy, Ohio.

CEOs held more optimistic expectations for gains by their own firms in the Q3 2013 Vistage CEO Confidence Index, even though they held less favorable views about the overall economic environment. Despie the debates about federal spending and the debt ceiling as well as prospective changes in monetary policies (the survey was conducted prior to the Fed’s recent surprise announcement), firms expressed an increasing level of confidence that prospects for their firms wold steadily improve during the year ahead. The Vistage CEO Confidence Index What would What other would business other leaders business in your leaders shoes What in do? your would shoes other do?business leaders in your shoes do? was 97.8 in the 3rd quarter 2013 survey, just How do they How handle do they retention handle issues, retention trim costs, issues, How or trim do deal costs, they handle or dealretention issues, trim costs, or96.7 dealin the 2nd quarter survey but above the substatially above the 89.0 recorded in last with labor relations? with labor Whatever relations? the Whatever challenge, thea with challenge, Vistage labor relations? a Vistage Whatever the challenge, a Vistage year’sChair, 3rd quarter. What wouldAdvisory other business leaders in by your shoes by do? How doChair, they handle Private Private Board, Advisory facilitated Board, facilitated a Vistage Private Chair, a Vistage Advisory Board, facilitated by a Vistage To be sure, two-thirds of all CEOs beretention issues, trim costs, or deal with labor relations? Whatever can help you can find help the you answers. find the Join answers. us at our Join next can us help at our you next find the the challenge, answers. Join us atlieved our next that their business wold ultimately What would other business leaders in your shoes do? a Vistage Private Advisory Board, facilitated by a Vistage Chair, can help you find monthly meeting. monthly meeting. monthly meeting. suffer from the burden of increasing fedthe answers. Join us at our next monthly meeting. How do they handle retention issues, trim costs, or deal eral debt, but nonetheless expressed reater If you are a CEO, If you key are executive, a CEO, key executive, If you are a CEO, key executive, relations? Whatever the challenge, a Vistage If youwith are alabor CEO, key executive, confidence in all aspects of their business. or business owner, or business call owner, call or business owner, call CEOs expected higher revenues and proits, or business owner, contact Private Advisory Board, facilitated Chair, Lauren Foster Lauren (858) 509-5861 Foster (858) 509-5861 by a Vistage Lauren Foster (858) 509-5861 and were more willing to boost fixed investMatt Lauth (419) 348-8046 or can help you find the answers. Join us at our next ments and hiring. Seven-in-ten CEOs would prefer legislation that balanced increases in monthly meeting. the debtInternational. ceiling with reductions in federal ©Vistage International. ©Vistage 235_3046 International. 235_3046 ©Vistage 235_3046 spending. If you are a CEO, key executive, or business owner, call 4 TheBusiness Journal January 2014 Lauren Foster (858) 509-5861

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(Continued from Page 1)

around 43. Van Wert City Council approved an Enterprise Zone agreement with National Door & Trim. This agreement provides the company with a 100% property tax abatement for a five-year period. Alexander and Bebout, Inc., of Van Wert, is the general contractor for this project, providing design-build services. Turnwald noted that the facility uses energy efficient lightning, but that is not the only green element to the company. “Many of the products we make ourselves are green,” Turnwald advised. He stated that all of the finishes used on the various products are water-based and all of the wood used to manufacture the products come from sustainable forests. “About 90% of our customers are resident contractors and residential builders,” Turnwald explained, noting that the other 10% are individuals. He noted that National Door & Trim’s products are typically supplied to homes valued from $350,000 up to $2 million. According to Turnwald, the company manufactures supplies for six to eight homes each day. National Door & Trim’s customer base is approximately a 130-mile radius from Van Wert, according to Turnwald. He explained the company’s coverage stretches to Toledo; Elkhart, Indiana; and the Dayton and Columbus areas.

Michael Dulle promoted to branch manager at Citizens National Bank

Citizens National Bank sentative before transitioning (CNB) has named Michael to interim Branch Manager of Dulle as Branch Manager of the Bluffton office. He previtheir Elida office. In this poously attended the University sition, Dulle is responsible of Northwestern Ohio and has for branch oversight, includcompleted additional enhanceing daily operations, sales ment coursework from the and financial performance. American Institute of Bankers. “Michael’s wealth of banking Dulle is a member of Saints knowledge brings great value Peter and Paul Catholic Church. to the bank and his dedication He currently resides in Ottawa, to customer service will be an OH. asset to the Elida community,” With offices in Bluffton, said Margaret Thompson, Celina, Defiance, Elida, FindMichael Dulle AVP/Branch Operations Coorlay, Lima, Springfield and Van dinator for the institution. Wert, Citizens National Bank Michael has been employed with CNB has assets totaling more than $600 million since 2010, working in the Findlay office and has been serving the communities of as a teller and Customer Service Repre- West Central Ohio since 1920.

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(Continued from Page 1) for Ohio. Other business incentives which made the expansion attractive for the Delphos plant was a Van Wert County Enterprise Zone Tax Exemption for real property tax and a JobsOhio grant coordinated by Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) helped to make the project possible. Unverferth was granted a 10-year, 90-percent tax abatement by Delphos City Schools in late November for expansion project. Van Wert County Economic Development Director, Cindy Leis, said she is


pleased to see business retention and expansion in the county and expects additional economic improvements throughout the county in 2014. Unverferth Manufacturing has been serving American farm operations since 1948 with tillage equipment, pull-type sprayers, hay, seed and grain handling equipment, and agricultural dual and specialty wheels. The company is based in Kalida, Ohio, with additional plants located in Shell Rock, Iowa and Delphos, Ohio. The Delphos expansion is designed to streamline production and meet customer demand.

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January 2014 TheBusinessJournal 5

5 tips for last-minute retirement planning
What happens when you wake up one morning and realize that you are not where you want to be in terms of retirement? That’s a situation many people find themselves in. Your best bet is saving early and often. But if you are nearing your desired retirement age, you might need to move into retirement mode if you haven’t been saving for as long as you would like. If you find yourself in need of last-minute retirement planning, here are some tips to help you make the best of the current situation: 1. Maximize your employer match. If your company offers a match, you should check to make sure you are maximizing it. It’s free money for you. If you aren’t getting the maximum match, you should do what it takes to get that match. In fact, this late in the game, you need to boost your retirement account contributions as much as you can afford to. If you already have maxed out a 401(k), open an IRA (traditional or Roth) so you can make additional tax-advantaged contributions. 2. Catch-up contributions. If you are over age 50, you have the chance to make catch-up contributions. If you have reached the point where you are maxing out your retirement accounts (and hopefully you are to that point at this juncture), and you are eligible, it’s time to put in some catch-up contributions in order to help the cause. 3. Look into index funds or ETFs. Even this late in the game, you might be able to benefit from the right asset allocation. Index funds and index ETFs offer a degree of diversity, are low cost, and can provide you with a decent amount of growth. Additionally, dividend stocks can provide you with a way to ramp up your portfolio. A dividend reinvestment plan can provide automatic reinvestment to compound your gains. It’s a good idea to consult a knowledgeable financial professional about your risk tolerance before making this decision. Getting an unbiased view of what investments might be appropriate for your situation will help your efforts to retire in your time frame. 4. Consider working longer. For some would-be retirees, a longer career is a ne-

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The oldest baby boomers will turn 68 in 2014. Some boomers are already retired, and many others will join them in the coming year. Here are some tips for people planning to retire in 2014: Revisit your asset allocation. It’s important to dial down the risk in your investment portfolio as you approach retirement, but you Jane Birckhead, CPCU also need to ensure your portfolio will keep up with inflation over Executive Vice President what could be several decades of retirement. “As you approach Trustee - Stepping Stones Center retirement, it makes sense to scale back some of the risk in the Life • Home • Auto • Business • Income portfolio,” says Susan Strasbaugh, a certified financial planner and Life • Home • Auto • Business • Income principal of Strasbaugh Financial Advisory in Colorado Springs, Hukill Hazlett Colo. “When you are talking about a 30-year retirement period, Harrington Agency, Inc. you don’t need everything really conservatively invested because you still need growth to stay ahead of inflation.” Strasbaugh recInsurance Since 1838 ommends investing a portion of your assets in cash or short-term 513-793-1190 1838 bonds, while investing some of your longer-term money more agFAX:Insurance 513-795-5730 Since • Cell: 513-479-1193 gressively. Direct Line: 513-619-4621 3-793-1190Email: • FAX: 513-793-5730 • Cell: 513-479-1193 Stress-test your retirement finances. Take a look at the worstDirect Line: 513-619-4621 case scenario for your investments, and consider whether you will Email: jbirckhead@hhhinsurance be able to pay for all of your retirement Full Payroll Service: necessities if that • Direct Depositing •Check Printing • Tax Depositing happens. “If you can • Quarterly Payroll Reports • Year End Reconciliation • W2’s & 1099’s financially afford to absorb a loss like we have seen in the past and still have enough income, that is going to be the most comforting thing,” says Greg Phelps, a certified financial planEric M. Macwhinney, President ner and president 207 N. Main St. • Delphos of Redrock Wealth Management in Las 419-227-9040 419-695-9040 Vegas. “If a loss of 25 percent would cause

Advice for people retiring in 2014

cessity. If you’ve started saving too late, you might need a few extra years to build your nest egg a little bit. This doesn’t mean that you have to work full time. You might be able to manage working part time, or on a freelance or consulting basis. Even a homebased business might be an option. Look at the alternatives, and determine how you might put off living only on your nest egg for a little bit longer. 5. Downsize your lifestyle. Another reality is that you might need to downsize your lifestyle if your nest egg is insufficient for your current needs. In some cases, if you don’t want to work a little bit longer, you might need to re-evaluate your expenses. Selling some items, selling your home and moving into a smaller place, and perhaps adjusting your view of retirement might be necessary if your nest egg isn’t keeping pace.

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you perilous harm, then you need to go back to the drawing board.” Simplify your investments. Unless you plan to make managing a complicated investment portfolio one of your retirement hobbies, it will save time if you simplify what you are invested in and how many accounts you have. “It’s very useful to consolidate your accounts,” says Jerrold Grecu, a certified financial planner and president of Grecu Capital Management in Roseville, Calif. “If you have accounts at a variety of different institutions, it’s much more difficult to manage statements.” Carefully consider when to claim Social Security. You don’t necessarily need to sign up for Social Security in the same year you retire. Social Security payments increase for each year you delay claiming up until age 70. “Generally, the longer you can put claiming Social Security off, the better you are,” Phelps says. “Even if you are pulling money out of a taxable account or an IRA account
See ADVICE, page 7



January 2014

Three must-dos to maximize retirement goals
There was a day when retirement was guaranteed by a company pension and a gold watch. Employees would even spend decades with the same company. Unfortunately, that day is long gone. In fact, retirement is no longer a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination, as the majority of individuals are now responsible for their own retirement planning. Americans have plenty to worry about when it comes to retirement. With pension plans becoming extinct, running out of money to live comfortably is the most common concern. According to a recent survey from Merrill Lynch, nearly 40 percent of adults age 50 and older fear they will run out of money in retirement. Making matters worse, only a third of older adults feel prepared for retirement if everything goes as expected, and less than a quarter feel prepared if one spouse dies or is forced to retire early for health issues. While a comfortable retirement may feel out of reach in today’s economy, there are three vital ways to improve your chances and decrease the likelihood of financial woes. OBAMACARE: White House warns enrollees to proceed with caution


(Continued from Page 6)

more heavily in the earlier years, if you can put off Social Security until age 70, your finances end up much stronger at age 90.” Sign up for Medicare on time. You can first sign up for Medicare during the seven-month window surrounding your 65th birthday. If you fail to sign up during that period (or within eight months of leaving group health coverage connected to your or your spouse’s job), your monthly Medicare Part B premiums will increase by 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Medicare but didn’t sign up. There can also be penalties if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part D and Medigap plans when you are first eligible to do so. . Avoid health insurance gaps. If you plan to retire before age 65, consider how you will find and pay for health insurance before you qualify for Medicare. “It’s not necessary that you wait until Medicare age to retire, but it’s extremely important to look at the cost if you do retire before then,” Strasbaugh says. “A lot of people who were insured through an employer are shocked at the cost.” Remember to take RMDs from retirement accounts. Distributions from traditional 401(k)s and IRAs are required after age 70 1/2, and income tax is due on each withdrawal. The distribution amount is generally calculated by dividing the account balance by an IRS estimate of your life expectancy. If you miss a distribution, the penalty is 50 percent of the amount that should have been withdrawn. Consider a gradual transition into retirement. Consider cutting back your hours or shifting to part-time work before you retire completely. This will give you a boost in leisure time while also bringing in some income. “It’s really difficult to go from working 60 hours a week to nothing. Consider semi-retirement or a 30-hour-a-week schedule,” Strasbaugh says. “It’s important for people to think about what else they are

going to do with their time.” Strasbaugh often asks her clients to write down what their ideal week in retirement will look like. Decide how you will spend your time. Whether you want to travel, volunteer or relax, consider how you will fill your days in retirement. “Many people spend more than they expected because they underestimate costs like travel and hobbies, and many of them pick up new hobbies,” Grecu says. “Carefully consider how your expenses might change in retirement.”

1. Make goals Considering the long-term status of Social Security, individuals have more responsibility than ever to create their own financial goals for retirement. “As the government is moving more and more retirement income onto the private sector and individuals, you need to look at having a million dollars in your retirement plan at the time you’re going to start drawing down on it,” Anton Bayer, founder of Up Capital Management, said in a phone interview. “That sounds like a big number, but it’s a real number. If you can do better than that, terrific.” Mr. Bayer, who has been a Certified Financial Planner since 1985, reminds clients that accumulating the first $100,000 is a brutal up-hill battle that takes years. However, retirement savings build much faster after the initial $100,000 as the AND REPAIR CO. power of compound return Full Service takes effect on a portfolio. Writing down your goals and Painting Contractor financial plan also make the process easier.
See THREE, page 12

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January 2014



How technology will drive business success for electrical contractors in the new economy
Electrical contractors are hungry for change. The new economic model has altered the way they grow and mature their firms. Although product manufacturers still play a vital role in dictating contractor offerings, it is technology that’s making a surprising entrance into the strategic visioning process of the electrical contracting profession. Technology has emerged as the predominant driver for leveraging success in the new economy. Arguably, there are several drivers that define the new economy. My earlier articles have highlighted the need to evolve from a pure services-only environment to a model that encourages a product-centric business solution to arrive, once again, at double-digit profit margins. Likewise, business size, international exposure, and self-generated funding (i.e., bootstrapping) will all play into the future success of the individual contracting firm. But it’s the future evolution of the industry that remains a mystery. What will manufacturers bring to the table? Are there opportunities in the broader technology market that will have an immediate and longer-term impact on the electrical contracting industry (see Future Technology Trends)? Future Technology Trends When faced with the question about the future of technology, the best foundation for a logical answer rests with both the expected product and business evolutions. Specifically, what are the bases that are being used by manufacturers in their research and development labs to arrive at new products? Likewise, what trends are being forecast by business theorists with regard to future operational and organizational models? Though not a perfected science, it is possible to take a glimpse at a proposed evolutionary route. Product manufacturers are keen on developing what can best be described as “smart products” — those that take the decision-making (and corresponding actions) away from an individual and rest them with a mechanical “box.” At the simplest level, programmable lighting ensures that technology, not a human hand, is responsible for minimizing energy usage while maximizing human comfort. On the higher end, wireless technologies are now being used to inform centralized maintenance centers of possible problems with single-user technology tools, allowing “fixes” to be implemented from these off-site locations. In this case, the cost of an on-site visit is negated, and the problem is resolved in far less time. If we logically follow product evolution, we could surmise that tomorrow’s future will eliminate the need for an electrical contractor to ever make a visit to a customer site — except, of course, for the initial installation. Energy efficiencies could be monitored from off-site locations, and changes (in line with the inhabitant’s desires) would automatically be programmed into the systems. Poorly performing system components could be bypassed as a short-term fix, and more effectively planned system overhauls could all but eliminate any form of electrical outages. Electrical consumption would be taken out of the hands of the individual and reside with the technological brain. Driver versus enabler Since its arrival in the early 1980s, mass market technologies have always been defined as business enablers. Businesses were encouraged to build their operating and organizational models and, subsequently, seek technology solutions to mechanize these functions. Accounting systems and spreadsheets were used to improve efficiency, not change the overall structure of the business operations. As such, technology enabled the operations of the business. During the ill-fated bubble of the 1990s, technology firms were committed to developing products for a marketplace that had yet to arrive. The adage of “building solutions for nonexistent problems” soon led to the demise of all but a handful of technology ventures. It was during this era that the presumption of enabling technology grew even stronger. After all, what value was technology when the application of it was neither identified nor quantified? Today, this long-standing premise is being challenged. New technologies are appearing at rapid rates, and businesses are experimenting with their application — often changing their operating and organizational structures to accommodate these new innovations. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, businesses are more poised to realize that leveraging a new form of innovation may, in many cases, be an appropriate strategic direction for the future. Technology has begun its evolution from business enabler to strategic driver. Social networking is an example of an unproven but highly used new technology. Businesses are quickly jumping on shared communication platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, with little basis more than it is “presumed” to be a business necessity. In fact, many larger firms are dedicating significant resources to updating and managing their firm’s social brand. Yet, at this point, there remains no definitive rationale for such a business move. There is a strategic decision facing electrical contractors today — remain stuck in the traditional methods of business operations that worked in previous economic eras or leverage the new technologies that are effectively leading the charge out of the recession and formalizing the foundation for the new economy. See RIDING, page 9

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January 2014

(Continued from Page 8) Technology today Technology has already had a substantial impact on the electrical contracting community over the last five years. For example, smartphones have eliminated the need for some paperwork as field technicians are able to be dispatched to a customer site, fill out a work order, and accept payment — all while interfacing with the business’ online accounting system; GPS systems have saved business owners hundreds of dollars with an ability to pinpoint the location of their vehicles at any time of day, ensuring employees remain engaged throughout their shift; and CAD systems have eliminated the need to hand-draw electrical schematics while allowing multiple contractor types to use a single set of building drawings. Beyond the technologies that have already been implemented into the contractors’ operational processes, several new innovations remain that are slowly being explored by those adventurous enough to push through conventional boundaries. Here are just a few examples. Online video (e.g., Skype) has created an ability to interact face-to-face with a customer without ever leaving the office. No longer is it necessary to drive great distances to resolve a potential issue. Instead, existing customers can request a virtual visit. Through a video question-and-answer session, many issues can be resolved or, at the very least, the anticipated resolution can be determined. Not only does this approach help increase face-to-face interaction — a key component to a satisfying customer relationship — but it also allows for any triage to be done immediately, thereby eliminating guesswork on the part of the contractor. Online payment of an outstanding invoice using either a credit card or thirdparty payment system (e.g., PayPal) creates an opportunity for the contractor to receive payments at the convenience of the commercial customer. As many customers have opted out of traditional hardcopy checks in favor of credit cards, the contractor is now equipped to handle these payments — again without even being in the office. Although many contractors do charge an additional fee for customers that use credit cards, it’s assumed that this practice will diminish as the majority of the population changes their approach to interacting with financial institutions. Electronic newsletters provide perhaps one of the most intriguing uses of behavioral-based technologies. Through both their websites and electronic mailings, contractors are able to literally chart the actions of their existing and targeted customer base. As opposed to the “olden” days — where direct mail was used to build visibility — contractors can now segment their targeted populations, test messages to market, and, most importantly, see the results of their efforts. This ability to “see” customer behaviors decreases cost of sales as only those targeted entities that have exhibited behaviors consistent with the contractor offerings are pursued. Hire a Chief Technology Officer Not many of us are technology experts. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that your ability to foresee technology evolution may be outside the realm of your skill sets. Yet, arguably, knowledge of this industry and its evolution is key to your future success. What can you do to remain abreast of the changing technology industry? If you look at your business today, you already employ a financial expert — either as an in-house position or as an outside advisor. The reason for employing this skill set is obvious — they are there to guide you with the financial decisions of your firm. From a technology perspective, the same philosophy holds true. You need a resource — presumably outside your employee base — that can provide you with insights and applications of new and emerging technologies. When we talk about implementing technology or any form of change, there are two camps — the early adopters or the pack followers. Early adopters are those individuals who see uses for technologies that are appearing in the marketplace and strive to incorporate those innovations into their business operations (see Hire a Chief Technology Officer). For this group of innovators, there is a dual-edged sword. On one side is the possibility for untold riches, as these new technologies open up market opportunities and thwart all forms of competition. Conversely, the promise of value associated with an innovation is unproven —merely a hypothetical discussion that is begging for a rationale result. As such, the level of risk and the counterpoint reward are exceedingly high. Most individuals fall into the “pack follower” mentality or those who have to be convinced that there is a tangible value for making any change. While the risk is relatively low, the upside rewards are also muted. Not only is there no competitive advantage being sought, but the reality is the status quo is also remaining intact. Of greatest concern are those contractors who are still waiting on the sidelines. As discussed earlier, the current technologies highlighted previously are already in use by your competitors. Not staying current puts an unfair strain on your overall infrastructure. Sure, your services may be the very best, but the impression left with your customer may be tarnished. From a business perspective, technology has already made great strides at forever changing the traditional organizational structure of an electrical contracting firm. Remember that a traditional firm is comprised of three functional divisions: sales and marketing, operations, and finance and administration. Of these functions, only operations is a core activity of any business. The remaining components are not perceived as unique business activities. With this in mind, accounting software firms have already made the move to offering their products through on-demand platforms — jettisoning the marketplace that presumes every contractor will buy and house their own accounting system. These product providers understand that the primary business of an electrical contractor is not accounting. They are making the evolutionary step that accounting (along with the ancillary administrative functions) will effectively be outsourced in the new economy. Now, with one level of evolution already in play, that traditional business model has been forever changed. The future

January 2014



5 tips to improve your career development
Could your career development and management use help to gain momentum? People who are the most successful and satisfied in their careers have proactively determined what they want from work. Once they’ve decided on their goals, they make a plan to accomplish the goals. Developing a timeline with career goals and expected milestones is also an effective way to manage your career. Bringing your boss and his or her sponsorship and mentoring into the picture will ensure that you have an internal mentor who will help you manage your career. Some companies have formal programs to help employees develop their careers. In others, you will need to informally pursue your career development. Companies with programs generally focus energy on helping employees develop and follow a career path. The career path is discussed at several meetings bi-annually with the employee’s boss. The company doesn’t own the career path; the employee does. But, the company demonstrates commitment to its employees by assisting where possible with resources of time and dollars. Career paths are recommended for the same reason that I recommend goals. They are the written plan that can help each employee focus on what is most important to his or her fulfillment and success. Without a plan, you can feel rudderless and you have no benchmark against which you can measure your progress. Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti (pictured), Vice President and Managing Director of Apollo Research Institute and Visiting Scholar in Stanford University’s Media X program, recommends these additional career management strategies. “Succeeding in a demanding, changing workplace requires a strategic career management plan. Employers want to attract, hire and retain employees who provide the best value. So consider yourself a business with a product to sell, and create a strategy for marketing your workplace value. “Data from the Apollo Research Insti-

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tute on the future of education, work and careers suggests the following five career management strategies: “Proactively engage your manager in a discussion about your career goals, and collaborate to create a career development plan. The most significant opportunity to exert influence is to involve your manager in the career planning process. “Investigate short- and long-term skill requirements. If your goal is to be the Vice President of Human Resources, understand the education, skills, technology and experience requirements, and develop interim career plans for achieving your long-term career goal. “To increase your knowledge of career options, request one-on-one informational meetings with colleagues and managers. The purpose of these brief meetings is to gather information to help you make educated career decisions. People are generally willing to share their success stories and advice. “Volunteer to complete challenging projects and assignments. One of the best ways to advance your career is to identify an organizational problem and propose a solution. By offering to implement the solution, you will not only increase your visibility as a problem-solver in the organization, but you might also expand your skills in the process. “Consult the Human Resources department to learn about career development and job opportunities such as tuition reimbursement for a college degree or certification, in-house technical or professional training courses and available job openings. Take advantage of available opportunities. Maintain your momentum and commit to continuous skill building and improvement. By planning your career strategy, you are increasing your chances of staying employable and achieving your long-term career goals.” Each of us has a certain number of years to invest in working and making a living. Having a job is fine, but creating a career will maximize your opportunities for success. To have a successful career requires that you pursue career management strategies like these. Your A successful career doesn’t happen unthinkingly. It needs planning, tending, and frequent review. Are you ready to pursue these career development strategies?

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TheBusinessJournal January 2014

What’s your proactive marketing approach to loyalty?
Dear Jeffrey, I am a huge fan. I recently had a WOW experience that completely coincides with your philosophy on customer loyalty versus satisfaction. Today, I received the following email from Amazon: Hello, We noticed that you experienced poor video playback while watching the following rental on Amazon Video On Demand: The Hunger Games. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and have issued you a refund for the following amount: $3.99. While Amazon Video On Demand transactions are typically not refundable, we are happy to make an exception in this case. This refund should be processed within the next 2 to 3 business days and will appear on your next billing statement for the same credit card used to purchase this item. This is amazing to me for a few reasons. Yes, I did notice that my movie was buffering more than usual and, yes, it was annoying. However, it was nothing more than a minor frustration. I didn’t complain. I didn’t complete a survey or give any feedback about this experience. Truthfully, until I received this email, I hadn’t given it a second thought. When I got this email, it stopped me in my tracks. THEY NOTICED. They noticed that this particular experience was below their normal standards. But what’s more important, THEY NOTICED WITHOUT ME TELLING THEM. Good companies would refund my money if I complained. Of course they would, that is expected. I never have had a company refund my money without being prompted. Never. And this, this was a surprise.  Would I have used them again even if they did not Jeffrey H. Gitomer refund my money? Yes, often. So what’s the difference? I wouldn’t have REFERRED them. I received this email recently. Since then, I have told all my coworkers I came in contact with, posted this on my Facebook wall, and now am writing you.  Amazon lost four dollars today, but they gained a customer for life! It was so impressive, I had to share. Make it a great day, Candace Brilliant, eh? Proactive, memorable service. Amazon is monitoring the quality of their streaming bandwidth and can identify quality issues. Then, they DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. No waste of time and money “survey,” no phony empty apology, just a good, old fashioned admission of guilt, and a proactive refund for poor performance. My bet is Amazon has given thousands of these, and the same customer response has happened with every one of them. What a strategy! Let’s make sure the customer experience was great, or let’s give them a refund. Simple. Powerful. Profitable. Give up $4.00 to earn thousands. I wonder who thought that one up? Certainly not their advertising agency. Look at the elements of business and sales as a result of Amazon’s action, and customer reaction: a huge wow, several social postings, more social proof, an amazing testimonial, customer loyalty, and pass along value that cannot be measured on any ROI scale. Amazon’s actions breed return on proactive, memorable service – the WOW factor, social response, and customer word of mouth. It’s WAY beyond “priceless” – in the long term, it’s worth a fortune. HERE’S YOUR LESSON: You can invest in some marketing program to reach new people – or you can invest in giving your existing customers the best service possible, and let THEM find new people for you. PREDICTION: I’ll bet the investment in existing customer experience is one-tenth the cost of any marketing program. In fact,

I doubt this type of outreach is even on a marketing team’s mindset. They’re still in the Stone Age measuring “ROI.” Amazon has lead the Internet all the way with vision and tenacity. Quality and value. Ease of doing business, buy with one click. Suggestive buying and published reviews. Not just price, delivery. And now add to that list: proactive WOW interaction. They dominate because they differentiate. They dominate because they innovate. They don’t study the market – they create it (like Apple). Most marketing studies are a CYA act of companies afraid to make mistakes, let alone be bold. Take this lesson to heart – and take it to your customers. If you come up with something creatively compelling, you can also take it to the bank!
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website,, will lead you to more information about training, seminars, and webinars - or email him personally at salesman@

Construction materials prices remain stable in November
Overall, construction materials prices fell 0.5 percent in November and are up only 1.1 percent year over year, according to the Department of Labor’s Dec. 13 Producer Price Index. Nonresidential construction materials are down 0.6 percent for the month and are 0.7 percent lower than the same time last year. “November represented another month of remarkable stability for construction input prices,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Although many investors predicted significant inflation this year due to expansionary monetary policies in much of the developed world, there continues to be a lack of significant inflationary pressures both globally and nationally.” Overall, the nation’s wholesale goods prices expanded 0.2 percent in November, but are down 0.9 percent year over year. “Next year is unlikely to offer as much stability as 2013,” Basu said. “Global economic growth is set to accelerate and the apparent budget deal in Congress should produce greater certainty among businesses, helping improve an already benign national economic forecast. Tension in the Middle East also continues to be a consideration. Together, these factors suggest materials price increases may be at least slightly more rapid in 2014.” THE FOLLOWING MATERIALS PRICES INCREASED IN NOVEMBER. Fabricated structural metal products were up 0.1 percent for the month and 0.3 percent year over year. Softwood lumber prices increased 2.6 percent on a monthly basis and are up 12.8 percent year over year. Natural gas prices were up 1.9 percent for the month and 3.3 percent on an annual basis. Nonferrous wire and cable prices rose 0.2 percent on a monthly basis and are down 3 percent year over year. Iron and steel prices were up 1.8 percent for the month and are down 0.1 percent compared to the same time last year. Prices for plumbing fixtures and fittings inched up 0.1 percent in November and are up 1.6 percent year over year. Steel mill products prices increased 0.8 percent in November but are down 0.6 percent compared to the same time last year. THE FOLLOWING CONSTRUCTION INPUTS EXPERIENCED PRICE DECREASES IN NOVEMBER. Prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding prices were down 3.8 percent for the month and 0.3 percent year over year. Crude petroleum prices fell 10.3 percent on a monthly basis but are up 0.9 percent year over year. Crude energy prices decreased 5.7 percent in November but are up 0.6 percent compared to the same time last year. Concrete products prices were flat in November and are up 2.8 percent year over year.

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January 2014





2. Perform quarterly check-ups Individuals shouldn’t worry about every headline they come across on a daily basis, but they should take some time to review their portfolios throughout the year. “I recommend people take their quarterly statement and make a 30 minute appointment with yourself or spouse,” explains Mr. Bayer. “Go to a coffee shop, or somewhere outside of the house, and sit down to review the statement. This is hopefully going to be a million-dollar account so take it seriously. This applies to even a $600 account. It’s the process that you want to instill.” There are six questions to consider when performing a quarterly check-up: • Did you make any progress with the account balance? • What is your rate of return? • Are your current allocations working for you? • What is your current balance and future contribution amounts? • How is your performance given your fund options? • How does your portfolio stack up against the broad market? Mr. Bayer adds that, “It’s very important to look at what’s not working. The irony of human behavior is that when things are really bad, people like to ignore their statements. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.” AMERICA’S EATING HABITS: Overweight but unchanging When it comes to saving for retirement, every dollar counts. Individuals should remember to take advantage of 401k plans when available. “The 401k plan is by far the most efficient savings account available to Americans. In fact, there’s almost no history of something like this available to the average American willing to contribute a small amount of their paycheck,” explains Mr. Bayer. “For many participants, their employer is providing some type of a matching contribution. It’s a paycheck by paycheck, year by year benefit that if they’re offering, you want that. Any free money that can be put into your account, you need to take advantage of it.” APPLE: Headed for $600 a share? If you’re young, you can take advantage of Father Time by starting to save for retirement as soon as possible. Individuals age 50 or older can take advantage in their 401k plan by contributing an extra $5,500 on top of the normal $17,500 contribution limit. 3. Take advantage

(Continued from Page 7)


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January 2014

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