Archive for November, 2010

Soar above the rest in your quest for a job

According to author and career consultant Christopher Tidball, there are jobs to be found even during these difficult economic times.   During a recent interview which aired on several Cox Radio affiliates, he shared some tips to increase chances of getting hired. 

“First, people need to recognize the importance of networking.” Tidball continued, “You cannot minimize the importance of the social media in today’s 24/7 world of technology.   Scouring classifieds and dropping off employment applications will not get a person hired.   It doesn’t work in good times and it certainly won’t work in today’s sour economy.”

“Second, your resume is your calling card.  During my twenty plus years in management, I have hired hundreds of people.   The resume is the first item that I look at and if it is not polished, it gets cast aside.   Content, formatting and appearance are all equally important.   A resume can contain the best qualifications in the world but if it is not pleasing to the eye, is sloppy or filled with errors, it will not get a second glance.”  

The author of Kicked to the Curb goes on to explain that with today’s technology, the first view of a resume is often done with an optical scanner which searches for key words and phrases.   Formatting is equally as important, as is the proper use of white space so as not to create a garbled optical image.   

To effectively find jobs, Tidball recommends that candidates take proactive steps to sell themselves as if they were selling a product.   “You have to identify the decision maker.   Your odds of getting hired increase in direct proportion to the level at which you are interviewing in the corporate hierarchy.  At lower levels, you are often interviewing with a human resource professional that may not fully recognize your value to the organization.   They may not ask the right technical questions, fully comprehend your answers and may pass on you for the wrong reasons.    Lower level supervisors may be taken aback by your expertise and out of concern for their own job, can impede your ability to advance in the interview process.  By getting to the top of the ladder, you have effectively cut to the front of the line.”

“The key is to identify venues which will increase the probability of interactions with decision makers.  Family, friends, neighbors and church groups provide an outstanding warm market.   Beyond that, trade groups, chambers of commerce, rotary clubs, business networking groups and conventions all provide opportunities to put the job seeker in a real life setting with a decision maker.   Remember, finding a new job is your full time job and it should be approached no differently than if you were trying to sell a product or service.” 

Even with unemployment near double digits, there are opportunities.   Companies are often looking for talented individuals, even when they aren’t advertising.   The reality is that less than ten percent of jobs are advertised, and many of those are entry level or lower wage positions.   By leveraging contacts and putting forth a professional, polished product, job seekers can often overcome the hurdles that have kept so many kicked to the curb during these difficult economic times. 

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Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He has appeared on dozens of local and national media outlets, including MSNBC and CBS Marketwatch sharing tips with individuals and businesses on the jobs market, development of new revenue streams and improving profitability.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com.     Media inquiries should be directed to Susan Paige, publicist at (904) 742-7868.  

November 29, 2010 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

The new reality of hot dogs and beans

In an ironic turn of events that sadly reflects upon the current state of jobs in America, Velma Hart was let go as Chief Financial Officer from Am Vets.   While millions of Americans have been kicked to the curb, Hart’s story stands out following her public call for help during a town hall meeting with Barack Obama. 

“My husband and I joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot-dogs-and-beans era of our lives,” Hart said during a CNBC town hall broadcast. “But quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we’re headed again. And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?”

In an interview with the Washington Post two months ago, she expressed worries even though her finances were in good shape.  But what really hit home for many Americans was her comment that “you don’t have to be in the street to be struggling.”  With consumer prices rising, savings dwindling and home values in the tank, her statement is testimony to the “survival mode” that has become the new reality for millions of Americans. 

During a recent radio interview, I shared with the host that today’s economy isn’t something to which most Americans are accustomed.   Many Americans, in particular those in their peak money making years, came of age during an era of conspicuous consumption.   Money was never an issue because it was always there.   Material possessions became the norm, often supplanting more critical aspects of lives such as faith and family.   Home values were always on the rise, literally creating a personal ATM that far too many too advantage of.  

As a nation, we were living large; arguably far too large.    Americans, from individuals to business to government, didn’t heed the advice of prior generations to save for a rainy day.   We were, at least we thought, too big to fail.   Today we are paying the price.  While it is difficult now, the lessons that we are learning are ones that will ultimately make us a better society as we harken back to the rugged individualism and self reliance upon which our nation was founded. 

Certainly there have been blips on the radar over the years, such as the tech bust of the late 90’s. But none has been as transformational as the current recession.   In large part, our failure to return to normalcy reflects upon our general lack of planning, at all levels, to hedge our bet against the inevitable rainy day.   Compounding matters has been a perfect storm of federal bureaucrats largely lacking a free market competency.    

This result has been an erosion of confidence in government by the private sector, in particular small businesses, which typically account for nearly 70% of new job growth.   Consumer confidence has followed suit, now at a generational low.    Our new reality has been a catastrophic economic meltdown, largely misunderstood by the very people who caused it.   As Hart puts it, “We are all caught in the middle of the insanity.”

Of course, things won’t be this way forever.   But, the path to recovery is littered with many roadblocks of ill conceived federal mandates that must be repealed which have played a key role in keeping unemployment at nearly ten percent, with many business owners saying they simply can no longer afford to hire people.  

Whether the incoming Congress can take steps to repair the damage that has already been done remains to be seen.   Whether the President who campaigned from the center, yet has governed from the left, can move back to the center remains to be seen as well.   For jobs to return, both are equally important.  

The message that we should all heed from Velma Hart is that nobody’s job is safe.   Businesses will continue to look for ways to scale back, because like millions of Americans, they are in survival mode, which will continue until Washington reigns in its tentacles allowing growth, innovation and prosperity to lead us down the path of recovery. 

“Don’t be afraid to see what you see.” – Ronald Reagan

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Christopher Tidball is a freelance writer and author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules for Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He provides businesses with innovative solutions to improving their bottom line with no new money required.  To learn more, visit www.christidball.com

November 24, 2010 at 8:40 am Leave a comment

Sluggish growth predicted by Fed need not be a deterrent to finding new opportunities

The Financial Times is reporting that the Federal Reserve is going to slash its growth forecast and predict higher unemployment in this week’s economic projections.    This pessimism shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the sluggish nature of a recovery stalled by ongoing uncertainty about the direction of Amerca.  

What is not being discussed is a remedy for the chronic unemployment that plagues our nation, now expected to remain above 8% until at least 2013.   Exacerbating problems is chronic underemployment where many skilled professionals are working beneath their abilities in order simply put food on the table.  

Contrary to what many believe, the issue isn’t lack of available capital.   With more than two trillion dollars sitting on the sidelines of the private sector playing field, there is plenty of cash.   Rather, it is the uncertainty created by a seemingly endless slew of legislation created by those hostile to the business community. 

A lack of confidence has business owners backed into a corner, uncertain about their next steps.   As consumer spending has decline in direct correlation to the decline in economic confidence, sales have plummeted.   Businesses, in particular small businesses who account for two thirds of all new jobs, have learned to do more with less.   Many Americans have been cast aside, unable to secure new employment as a result of limited economic growth. 

What we have entered is a perfect storm created at a federal level by ill conceived utopian policies that never had a chance of success.   From the stimulus to Obamacare to financial reform, the outcome we are currently living was never in doubt by those who understanding how the private sector functions.  

While this reality does little to stem the tide of the unemployed, it should provide an understanding of the direction of our nation in coming months and years.    While the inevitable gridlock in Washington will be welcomed by the business community, it won’t provide solutions.  Rather, it will simply end the tsunami of destructive policies and legislation that have undermined economic growth for the past two years.  

Those who have been kicked to the curb need to now adopt a new paradigm as they seek to get back on their feet.   Business owners aren’t going to rush out to begin hiring anytime soon.  That said, business will begin to make a comeback in coming months.   There will be some economic growth, and there is only so much that can be done with the staff on hand. 

Those filling out applications and waiting for a phone call aren’t likely to have any more success in that endeavor than they have had in the past.    Even during good times, this is an ineffective way to get hired.  Rather, now is the time for reinvention.   Those who are unemployed or underemployed need to actively seek out new opportunities armed with the knowledge that the definition of employment has been permanently altered as the result of government legislation. 

Many businesses have opted to do away with full time employees in favor of independent contractors.   Larger companies are often outsourcing entire departments to business partners, often small companies that will likely be the catalyst to economic growth.  

As an individual looking for a job, you now have the power to create a product and present it to prospective employers from the perspective of a self-starting entrepreneur.   By seeking out decision makers in venues such as rotary clubs, chamber meetings or trade shows, job seekers can effectively cut to the front of the line.   By devising solutions and positioning oneself as an independent business partner or consultant, employers will look more favorably upon potential relationships, as it minimizes their risk.  

Those willing to take some risks are likely going to be the biggest beneficiaries in coming months.   By understanding that the face of the employment has been fundamentally transformed in the wake of massive government legislation that undermined the employer/employee relationship, people are now armed with the knowledge they need to properly reinvent themselves.  

 “Difficulties mastered are opportunites won.” – Winston Churchill

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Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules for Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He provides businesses and individuals with innovative solutions to developing new revenue streams and improving their bottom line.  Learn more at www.christidball.com

November 22, 2010 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

If winning doesn’t matter, why do they keep score?

Managing an organization is a lot like managing a football team.   There are defined metrics and goals to achieve, conquer and win.    Like a championship football team, the effective organization blends leadership and talent in a way that sets them apart from the competition.

With a recipe for success, why is it that so many organizations succumb to mediocrity?   From the biggest to the smallest, public and private, there are those who achieve, those to attempt to and those who just seem to get by, satisfied with mediocrity.  

It comes down to people.   From the leadership down to the rank and file employees, building the winning organization takes talent, time and savvy.    A common denominator in many struggling organizations is bureaucracy and complacency.    Far too many have been given tasks in a culture where silos haven’t given way to cross functional cooperation, impeding a companies ability to truly become great.  

To truly understand effective leadership, consider Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest coach in NFL history.   When he took over the Green Bay Packers in 1959, they were coming off of a 1-10-1 season.  When he departed nine years later, he left behind one of the greatest dynasties in football history.   Lombardi succeeded because he challenged the status quo and had no room for the half hearted.   He had a unique ability to hone in on a players talents, maximizing both their physical and mental abilities. 

The business world is no different, with successful organizations keying in on leaders who have the ability to facilitate change,  like Lombardi, who approach their challenges with a no lose, try hard, old fashioned system.    By identifying A players, motivating B players and removing C players, any leader has the ability to fundamentally transform any organization.  

While this may be easier said than done in an era where pride and hard work have seemingly taken a back seat to entitlements and coddling, it is being accomplished in organizations that stand heads and shoulders above the crowd.  

When Vince Lombardi took over the Packers, he established a military-time system, which later became to be named after Lombardi himself. This meant that “on time” was actually ten minutes early, which was what was demanded of all the players, and is something that true A employees will always adhere to. 

Tee shirts on the road were replaced with blazers and ties.   The team, as the effective workplace, was a cohesive group of “dignified professionals…only winners” and anyone who failed to live up to expectations was “free to get the hell out.”  By establishing a winning culture, the paradigm of this in his organization effectively altered the direction of the team.  

In prior blogs, we have discussed how nothing is ever achieved without passion, which was a critical part of the Lombardi trinity, united with repetition and confidence.    Like many great leaders, he had an affinity for God, family and success, using an uncanny ability to blend all three.    For Vince, there was no distinction between the practice of religion and the game of football, where many of his fundamental principles were learned from the religious ethic of the Jesuits. 

As you look for ways to improve your bottom line results, consider the truly inspirational  leaders that have blazed the path to greatness and paved the way to success.   With the right blend of leadership and talent, it is possible for any organization to exceed expectations which is guaranteed to give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses then why do they keep score?”  – Vince Lombardi

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Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules for Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.  He is a business consultant, providing clientele with innovative ways to improve their bottom line with no new money required.  To learn more please visit www.christidball.com

November 19, 2010 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

He said, she said: Who is really at fault?

If you were rear-ended who is at fault?  What if another car makes a left turn in front of you?  How about a car backing from a parking space as you proceed down the aisle of a parking lot.   At first glance you may say that the other person was at fault, but is that always the case? 

The reality is that far more accidents than most people realize have shared culpability.   In fact, a review of all jury verdicts from the state of Florida found that in multiple vehicle accidents juries assessed fault against both parties 79% of the time!

As an insurer, you certainly shouldn’t expect to set a benchmark that high, as very few claims actually make it to trial.  But what you can do is bank on the fact that if fewer than 35% of your collision claims are closing with comparative fault money is being left on the table. 

Let’s take a look at an actual claim scenario, and the response to jury polling after the verdict was read.  The situation involved an 18 year old student making a left turn from a northbound lane in front of an oncoming vehicle which was proceeding in the out of two southbound lanes.   The impact to the vehicle turning was to the right rear door while the damage to the southbound vehicle was to the front end, causing airbags to deploy and the driver to fracture her facial orbital lobe on the windshield pillar.  

To many the liability may seem clear against the 18 year old, which reinforces the need for prompt and aggressive claims investigations to gather and preserve evidence.   

In this particular case consideration was paid to the fact that the vehicle turning left had crossed the first lane and virtually all of the second lane of oncoming traffic prior to the collision, thereby establishing control of the intersection.   The southbound vehicle should have seen the vehicle turning and most certainly had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.  Both of these facts were taken into consideration by the jury which assessed 25% negligence against the party who many would assume had their right of way violated.  

In addition, the investigation concluded that the driver who was injured was not wearing their seat belt, holding the victim 15% liable for the injuries being claimed which resulted in a 40% assessment of negligence against the injured party.  

It is often said that the devil is in the details, and in this case the details proved to be incredibly valuable for a case that would have settled for far more money with a lax investigation.   By taking the time to understand the facts,  inspecting and preserving the damaged property and effectively utilizing experts, the insurance adjuster was able to effectively leverage an accurate outcome that properly identified fault on both of the parties. 

As a general rule, about 15% of all claims are settled with a missed subrogation opportunity.   By many estimations, this result is low as it is benchmarked against other insurance carriers who are also missing many opportunities.   In studies which I have been involved with, missed subrogation opportunities have been identified between one quarter and one third of the time.  

So how do you drive your claims organization to improve accuracy?   Investigate, investigate, investigate!  This can’t be said enough.    Are statements taken from all parties?    Has all damaged property been inspected?  Was there a scene investigation?  Were primary and secondary liability factors and mitigators considered?  What duties were owed, what ones were breached?  By taking the steps to complete a thorough investigation, not only will quality improve but so will results!

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Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb and has been featured in multiple insurance industry trade publications providing his unique perspective on improving claims processes and bottom line results.     Visit www.christidball.com to learn how your company can maximize its bottom line with no new money required.  

November 18, 2010 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Driving the right claim outcomes

Driving the right claim outcomes can seem like a monumental task at times.   With adjusters, managers and executives facing the often competing priorities of customers, goals and shareholders it’s tough to juggle so many balls at once.   Often, the metrics by which they are measured drive the results that they strive for; but, are they always measured on the right metrics?

What’s more important; contacting a customer in two hours or putting a million dollars on the company’s bottom line?   While many basics,  such as contacts and inspections,  are addressed during the course of a claims investigation many other critical aspects are often left out that can cost the carrier money. 

How many files have you reviewed where there was clearly a liability issue but the file lacked a police report, witness statement, clear photographs depicting the point of impact or a scene investigation?  How many more files have you looked at that may have contained some or all of these critical items but the adjuster decided to pay 100%, despite the obvious comparative negligence. 

Intersection accidents, lane changes, parking lot accidents, he said/she said scenarios are all types of claims that have the potential to help companies striving to improve claims payment accuracy.   To achieve improved results, it is incumbent upon managers to provide a consistent message pertaining to quality.

Over the years, working in multiple capacities for multiple insurers, I have met adjusters and even managers who have limited understanding of such things as comparative negligence, empty seat defenses and joint & several liability.   Considering this, it should come as much of a surprise that industry statistics show nearly 15% of all claims are closed with a missed subrogation opportunity costing carriers billions of dollars annually.   The reality is that these figures are based upon carriers’ measurements against others who are also missing 15%, so the true figure is likely much higher. 

There are only so many hours in a day and often competing priorities, such as disposition, push adjusters to make hasty decisions, often with a bottom line impact.    Managers can only do so much, as much of their time is spent on administrative issues which come at the expense of quality.   The companies that truly set the bar for results have one thing in common; they rely on business partners to help them carry the heavy load.  

Take subrogation, an area often overlooked as a potential profit center.   Far too often money is left on the table because processes haven’t been established to put the right claim in the right hands.   By removing difficult and time consuming collections such as uninsured motorists, double dips or cases against non-members of ICA, carriers can increase adjuster workload by 20%.    The costs associated with sending the most difficult of collections to outside business partners is a fraction of the bottom line, net back gain.  

The same holds true with many other aspects of the end to end claims process.   From first notice of loss to salvage, carriers can benefit from improved productivity and quality with a workflow that leverages expertise, be it internal or external, every step of the way.  

Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He provides consulting services to the insurance, healthcare and government sectors, assisting client’s in improving their bottom line with no new money required.  Learn more at www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com

November 17, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Turning Adversity into Prosperity

Can adversity lead to prosperity? Consider the fate of the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday in what can only be described as a do or die situation.   With no time left on the clock, it appeared that the Jaguars who had squandered their lead were destined for overtime with waning momentum.   Then, in the face of adversity, quarterback David Garrard launched a pass to the Heavens from the 50 year line, which bounced off  a Houston defender and into the hands of wide receiver Mike Walker for the winning score.    

Adversity became prosperity.  The reality is that while America is the most prosperous nation in the world, the foundation of our society was built upon adversity.  We have prospered because of our mindset, that “only the strong shall survive”;  a tenet of being an American that is taught to our youth from the time they walk onto their field of dreams.   

Since the earliest beginnings of America, periods of extreme adversity have fostered innovation and the building of new industry, as evidenced by 18 of the 30 firms currently on the Dow Jones Industrial Index being founded during economic downturns.

According to Bhaskar Chakravorti of the Harvard Business School,  moments of crisis have historically served as a powerful impetus for innovation, whether a Manhattan Project, a moon shot, or industry-transforming “green” consciousness and its related initiatives. The entrepreneurs who thrive in the face of adversity are a different breed from those who flourish when resources are unlimited, such as in Silicon Valley during the 1990s.

The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity showed that the rate of new-business creation was higher during the deepest part of the 2009 recession than it had been in the 14 previous years, including the 1999–2000 technology boom.

If there is a silver lining to the current economic downturn, it is a return of the entrepreneurial spirit that defined our nation from its earliest days.   As discussed in Kicked the Curb,  facing adversity such as a job loss, often inspires people to soul search and reach within to come out on top.   With record numbers of Americans in survival mode, it is our unique spirit of self reliance and rugged individualism that will allow our economy to recover amidst a new era driven by spiritual revival and amazing innovation.

As businesses continue to cut back, needs will arise which will be met by those willing to take the risks necessary to provide them with solutions.    Those willing to adopt a paradigm of self sufficiency will be the leaders in the new economy, defined by traditional employers doing more with less, outsourcing more and taking steps to circumvent the tentacles of an increasingly intrusive federal bureaucracy.

With double digit unemployment and underemployment, it would be disingenuous to think that people have simply given up hope.  To the contrary, many counted in these statistics have simply opted to go in a new direction.   They are forging new paths, investing their life savings in pursuit of a dream which will be achieved as they leverage the adversity faced by the business community.  Together, a stronger private sector alliance is emerging that will eventually regain the power lost in recent years.   In the end, it will be this new found alliance of entrepreneurs and traditional business that will blaze the path to economic recovery.

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” -Lee Iacocca

Christopher Tidball is a freelance writer, business consultant and author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He provides businesses in the insurance, healthcare and government sectors with innovation solutions to reduce costs, increase productivity and maximize their bottom line with no new money required.   Learn more at www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com.  

November 16, 2010 at 11:03 am Leave a comment

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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at chris@christidball.com

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