Archive for December, 2010

Making your New Year’s resolutions pay off big in 2011

With 2011 upon us, it is time to sit down and make resolutions for the New Year.   Most certainly there will be the typical; losing weight, finding a mate or being a better person, which will last for the average three weeks.   But what about making resolutions that you can stick to because they will have a big financial impact on your bottom line?  

Better yet, what about picking resolutions that are guaranteed to make you money without costing you any new money?   While this may sound too good to be true, the reality is that these simple resolutions are guaranteed to have a BIG impact on your bottom line. 

As the year comes to a close, both businesses and individuals will be busy closing out their books only to find that they are owed money.  According to government records, there is $35 BILLION in unclaimed funds owed to individuals.   You can search for your own personal goldmine at www.unclaimed.org.   Even more telling is the estimated $200 billion is owed to businesses and if unpaid judgments are factored in this figure rises to nearly $300 billion!

The reality is that along with unpaid bills, an astounding 82% of all judgments go unpaid, as well.  As an attorney friend put it; getting judgments is easy but collection is the true test of ability.  Don’t let that money lay around; make a resolution to work with an expert to track it down with NO NEW MONEY required on your part.

But finding money doesn’t sopt with improved revenue cycle, receivables or subrogation.   What about money being spent needlessly on utilities, often one of the most expensive capital outlays in an organization.   What if there was a way to decrease electric costs by 15% or more?  What about decreasing lighting costs by up to 70%?  What if this came with a connected equipment protection guarantee and could be done with NO NEW MONEY required? 

Whether you are looking to find money, improve revenue cycle results or reduce wasteful spending, we have solutions.   As we enter 2011, keep an eye on the Finding Millions blog, or better yet become a subscriber to have free updates delivered right to your inbox.  

With tax reform in place, the coming year will provide tremendous opportunities to for businesses to invest in capital improvements!   Our innovative solutions give individuals and businesses the opportunity to develop new revenue streams while improving productivity and cutting costs.   Best of all, our solutions are paid for with your savings, which leaves the balance in your pocket!    

From process improvement and staffing optimization to revenue recovery and energy savings, there are tremendous opportunities just waiting to help 2011 become a year of incredible success with record profits.  

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Chris Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb, a book that combines the spiritual journey of The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking with the insight gained during his twenty years on the inside of multiple Fortune 100 companies.  He has been featured on dozens of media outlets, including MSNBC and CBS Market Watch with innovative solutions to assist individuals and businesses in finding new revenue streams in today’s difficult economic times.  For more information please visit www.christidball.com or email the author at chris@christidball.com.

December 30, 2010 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Finding free money to grow your business during tough economic times

Spending time with various business leaders as the year comes to a close can definitely provide for some interesting conversation.   It seems that virtually no sector of the economy has been left untouched during the “Great Recession”. 

Contraction seems to be the common denominator across business lines, with more and more employees facing layoffs.  Interesting, there is not a lot of discussion about finding money that may have been left on the table that could actually help a company avoid losing talent that they may never be able to reclaim once the economy picks up steam.  

My advice to businesses that have the ability to expand is to do just that.   Take advantage of discounts on everything from real estate to supplies to labor.   By growing your business during difficult times you will quickly leverage your place in the market and gain a competitive edge.   You may be asking why someone would recommend taking such risks with so much economic uncertainty.  My answer is exactly the same as it would be if you were to ask why I would recommend you put your personal money in a Roth IRA. 

We live in a pay me now or pay me later society.   In my latter example above, individuals have the opportunity to pay taxes today to avoid taxes later.   Given the massive monetization of our debt it is inevitable that our future tax rate, say when you turn 59 ½ and have the ability to access your Roth IRA, will be substantially higher than today.

The same is true for capital for your business.   Money remains relatively cheap and contrary to what the gloom and doom media is saying, money is available.   By investing in your business today, you will be substantially ahead of your competitors who are contracting and will be forced to play catch up when the cost of everything, including labor, gets more expensive as the economy improves.  

Remember, the best source of capital isn’t the banks.  It is actually within your own four walls; find money by looking for places where it is being left on the table.  For large companies, simple fixes can literally turn into millions of dollars.   Consider the amount of money you could save by cutting your electric costs by 15% while paying for this solution with your savings AND putting cash in your pocket.    A quick call to a company such as Energy Pure Solutions can potentially save thousands, or even millions, of dollars on an annual basis.  Check them out on line at www.energy-pure.com.

Better yet; what about finding free money?   If you were walking down the street and found a hundred dollar bill on the ground what would you do?  Most people would pick it up but then again many businesses are hamstrung by bureaucracies that don’t all for the operational efficiencies of individuals resulting in money just lying around.   Companies across all industries leave billions of dollars on the table each year.  While they often employ people to manage their receivables or pursue collections, they generally are only scratching the surface of the money that they are owed.  By partnering with experts in the field of recapturing dollars that are being overlooked, businesses will immediately create a new revenue stream. 

These are just two examples of steps that can be taken to maximize your bottom line.   By partnering with experts in the field of operational, procedural and workflow optimization you will quickly discover a world where money can grow on trees.   By focusing on such aspects of your business as lowering energy costs or increasing collectibles you can quickly discover a 15% lift to your bottom line.   That’s not a bad ROI in during troubling economic times.  Think of the possibilities that will arise as the economy improves and your business is already ahead of the profitability curve. 

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Chris Tidball is a business consultant, freelance writer and  the author of Kicked to the Curb, a book that combines the spiritual journey of The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking.  Using innovative concepts, he has assisted many individuals and businesses in finding new revenue streams in today’s difficult economic times.  For more information please visit www.christidball.com or email the author at chris@christidball.com.

December 28, 2010 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Achieving results through organizational consistency

While consistent outcomes may very well be the foundation for organizational success, achieving them is another story altogether.   Whether it is manufacturing, hospital revenue cycle or insurance claims, managing consistency is a full time job.  

The key to success not only lies in properly conveying expectations but holding all parties accountable for results.   Could Honda achieve record levels of customer satisfaction by simply saying that all cars were to have no defect, or is there an underlying process that drives their high quality outcomes?  The same holds true in a claims organization where accurate settlements are paramount to success, but simply requiring it won’t achieve it. 

We often find ourselves on multiple sides of consistency processes; requiring it, managing to it or achieving it.  The good thing is that consistency is achievable with a few simple concepts:

1)      Identify what is trying to be achieved and then outline specific measurements that are conveyed to staff.

2)      Ensure that there is no ambiguity.   There is nothing more frustrating for rank and file employees than having to guess what communication from above really means.    If the goal is to have all calls returned within 24 hours, communicate “I want all calls returned within 24 hours…no exceptions”.  Good managers will ensure that this is achieved while the specific metric can be used to remove those who don’t meet expectations. 

3)      Have a quality assurance process that can be used to benchmark the entire organization down to the individual level.

4)      Have a calibration process which ensures that every person in the organization understands what the expectations are, what the measurements will be and how to achieve their goals with a uniform approach.

5)      Create a culture of winners rather than whiners, as the latter drag down an organization leaving it mired in mediocrity. 

The key to consistency starts at the top, with executives leading by example.  Communication should be clear, concise, timely and most of all frequent.   Goals and expectations should be established and become a part of the corporate culture.  

Follow the lead of well run organizations and examine the types of people that they hire.  Remember that while goals come from above, consistent results come from below.  Consider Southwest Airlines, both an innovator and an industry leader.   Look at the types of people that they hire and try to find just one “whiner”, as they won’t survive the culture of positive thinking and a results oriented philosophy where everyone is a stakeholder. 

“The secret of success is consistency of purpose.” –Benjamin Disraeli

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 identify new and consistent streams of revenue.  Learn more at www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com.

December 22, 2010 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

Improve revenue cycle with 20 simple green solutions

While focusing on revenue cycle is critical to the bottom line of any business, an often overlooked opportunity is energy savings.   Consider the fact that the average hospital could improve their bottom line by about 5% by properly identifying insurance.   Now consider that this same hospital has the potential to reduce their electric bills by susbantially more, often in excess of 15%!

Energy Pure Solutions is dedicated to providing customers with state of the art, innovative solutions to to just that.   Here are some quick and easy tips that you can implement in your own business that will have a HUGE impact on your bottom line, giving you a competitive edge in the marketplace!

1. Implement a company policy to shut off all lights, machinery, and equipment when not in use,  particularly on nights and weekends. Did you know that the majority of equipment sits idle for up to 90% of its life?  With simple devices, such as timers, turning off equipment has never been easier.

2. The installation of low cost energy monitors can provide an accurate display of costs associated with equipment use and can lead to a 40% savings.

3. Consider using TVSS surge protectors.  Not only can you save on your electric bill, but transient voltage surges cost businesses billions of dollars annually in damaged equipment and downtime.

4. Lighting can account for more than half of an electric bill.   Lighting retrofits can often cut these costs in half, providing one of the best bottom line investments in your business!  Did you know that if every American switched just four (4) bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent the amount of energy saved would equal the amount consumed by 38 million cars annually!

5.   On average, heating and cooling account for anywhere from 30% to 45% of a typical electric bill.   By setting your thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter, consumption can be reduced by 3-5%.

6. Programmable thermostats can automate your HVAC system and to significantly reduce your heating and cooling when your business is not in operation.

7. Did you know that fans can dramatically reduce your electric bills?   By improving air movement and lowering temperatures, fans allow you to set your thermostat 3 to 5 degrees higher!

8. Upgrade the energy efficiency of your older equipment with modern equipment that is much more efficient with returns on investment often being less than 12 months.

9. Look for the Energy Star logo to find the most efficient equipment.  To learn more visit www.energystar.gov

10. Travel and transportation costs have been rising rapidly as fuel costs increase. Efficiency in transportation is often an effective way to lower your energy costs. If your business has company-owned cars or a fleet of vehicles, consider purchasing vehicles that are hybrid, whenever possible. Check www.hybridcenter.org for the latest information on hybrid vehicles.

11. Enable power management modes on your computer which allows them to hibernate, saving up to 90 percent of the energy consumed.

12. Consider using laptops instead of desktop computers, as they are far more energy efficient and can consume up to 80 percent less energy than equivalent desktops.  Save even more with Inkjet printers which use 75% less energy than laser printers.

13. If you have a fleet of vehicles, consider using Hybrids that combine some of the highest crash test ratings with unparalleled fuel efficiency.   Not only will your energy costs go down but you will likely get a break on your insurance premiums!

14. Did you know that water and sewer can account for a substantial part of your utility bill?  Check your entire water system for leaks to ensure you are only paying for what is being consumed.

15. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values—the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat. DOE recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions in different areas of the nation. The map and chart below show the DOE recommendations for your area. One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic. For new construction or home additions, R-11 to R-28 insulation is recommended for exterior walls depending on location (see map below). To meet this recommendation, most homes and additions constructed with 2 in. x 4 in. walls require a combination of wall cavity insulation, such as batts and insulating sheathing or rigid foam boards. If you live in an area with an insulation recommendation that is greater than R-20, you may want to consider building with 2 in. x 6 in. framing instead of 2 in. x 4 in. framing to allow room for thicker wall cavity insulation (R-19/R-21).

16. In most utility districts, demand charges are applied to commercial electric bills when power factor ratings fall below a certain threshold, often 90%.   By  improving your power factor you will have the ability to not only eliminate demand charges but reduce your overall bill!

17. Do you use rail or truck to ship products?   If so, you may benefit from the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership which is a cooperative effort between the federal government and a variety of transportation sources to increase energy efficiency while reducing your carbon footprint.   Learn more at www.epa.gov/smartway.

18. Did you know that you physical structure can provide a great source of savings?   By sealing up any possible leaks with weather stripping or caulking you can dramatically reduce your energy costs.   By incorporating new LEED standards in construction you can be assured of the latest efficiency techniques.  Learn more from the U.S.  Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org.

19. Consider developing a comprehensive green business plan for your business that encompasses energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, transportation, computing and equipment efficiency, building design, and the design and actual operation of your business. Energy savings of 30 percent are easy and cost-effective to achieve and can reach up to 75 percent with a diligent effort.

20. Consider a partnership with the Energy Pure Solutions, where we can provide you with a free energy audit to identify alternative energy opportunities that will dramatically reduce your overall costs, increase your profitability, reduce your carbon footprint and give you a competitive edge in the marketplace!

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Many thanks to Susan Tidball, owner of EnergyPure Solutions, for providing customers with energy saving alternatives that can dramatically reduce electric bills, increase profitability and make your company more competitive in the market place.  She can be reached at susan@energy-pure.com.

 

December 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm 1 comment

Hiring for attitude then training for skills creates a winning team

A lot of attention has been focused in recent months on the state of the jobless in America and what can be done to reduce the record numbers who have been kicked to the curb.  But what about the people who are in a position to hire?  What exactly are they looking for?  What defines the ideal employee? 

During recent appearances on ABC’s First Coast News and Roxy Tyler’s Jax Journal, it has become ever more apparent that solutions are needed to bridge the gap between those seeking jobs and those seeking employees.  

From Career Builder and Monster to Yahoo and Jax Jobs, there is no end to the places for both to connect.  But how effective is this in a day and age when a mere fraction of all jobs are ever even listed? 

Over the past few months, we have focused a lot of resources on networking opportunities that work for employees, but have shared little about the employer perspective.  

Employers have become increasingly leery of hiring with many scaling back, or ceasing hiring altogether, as the result of the perpetual economic uncertainty.   Many larger companies have opted to transition job functions offshore while many smaller companies have simply opted to do more with less.  

Now more than ever employers are looking for employees who are flexible.   Those with rigid demands are of little interest to employers who have seen compensation pushed downward in recent months.   Employees simply looking for benefits are finding it tough to find them as employers cut back on this ever increasing expenditure. 

More than anything, employers need the right person for the right job.   Personality, above all else, is what will get you hired.   Certainly there are technical components of any position, but far more important is the person who can be taught technical skills and will carry them out without the bad habits can come with tenure.   

In our increasingly litigious society employers have found it ever more difficult to fire incompetent employees.  The draconian termination steps often utilized by many larger companies, designed to prevent litigation, have hamstrung line managers to the point that they simply ignore incompetence.   Of course, there is the unintended consequence of the poor performer exposing the company in other ways that can be even more costly. 

None of this is a concern when the right employee is hired up front.  But how do you identify the right person?  Certainly pre-employment testing can be highly beneficial and is a means used by a number of industry leading companies to identify the ideal candidates.   Other companies use a targeted selection process through which a series of questions designed to elicit specific responses reflective of competence.  Still others sit down and interview the old fashioned way, asking simple questions while getting to know the person.  

All methods have proponents and detractors and none is really any better than the next.   In combination, they can prove to be a winning formula.   That said, it’s tough to get to know the person until they are in the door as tests can be gamed, targeted questions can be answered with the sought after response and everyone puts their best foot forward during the face to face interview.   While references can be contacted, it is very unlikely and often unlawful, for a person to give an actual portrayal of what an employee will be like.   

As you can see, hiring can be very difficult and as a general rule of thumb, a bad employee will make the organization worse than simply not hiring a person at all.   During good economic times, employers are far more likely to take a gamble on a person than they are now, as companies simply have opted to minimize their risks. 

From the employer perspective, it is often best to put personality above all else as nothing can undermine an organization more than negativity.  Certainly there are some positions, such as a medical doctor, that require certain academic achievement.  But even then, taking the steps necessary to identify those candidates who can be the light when entering a room, enables businesses take a positive step forward. 

As discussed in Kicked to the Curb, it is often best to trust your gut, as people are very intuitive by nature.  If something is too good to be true, it usually is just that.   By the same token, when you sense something is awry, it very well may be.  

While there is no magical elixir to finding the perfect employee, take solace in knowing that there are record numbers out there currently looking to prove their mettle in an ever more difficult business climate.  

“We spend more of our time hiring the right people for their attitude and then training them for their skills.  You need to have clear values and follow them religiously.  We turned out to be a winning team.” – Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus Southwest Airlines

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Christopher Tidball is a business consultant, 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.    To learn more please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

December 17, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Alliances have become an integral part of contemporary strategic thinking

Business alliances have been around for as long as man has conducted business transactions.   Some are formal, some information, most are successful.   In the new economy, it is through these business alliances that companies can remain nimble and free of the red tape and  bureaucracy that often impedes larger corporations.   These companies can turn on a dime because that is what the new economy demands and it is for this reason that emerging alliances of small companies are the wave of the future. 

By nature, Americans are entrepreneurial.   From the earliest days of our nation, there was a certain kindred spirit of freewill and manifest destiny that paved the way to accomplish more than the entire world had collectively ever achieved.  

Largely as the result of what has transpired in recent years, many Americans are rekindling that spirit.  Recognizing that the new economy has kicked employment security to the curb, they are forging their own path.   But, as anyone who has ever started a business can attest, going it alone is very difficult which is why strategic partnerships are becoming increasingly important. 

Every person has a unique talent, and by leveraging economies of scale among many organizations, individuals suddenly have access to a broad range of skills.  From improved purchasing power to a wider array of solutions, strategic alliances now have the ability to target an increasingly large audience while maintaining their own autonomy.  

In an ever changing world, this is becoming increasingly important.   Consider that just a generation ago a person could open a small storefront and provide a specific product, such as hardware.   Then came the big box stores that literally put the small mom and pop out of business.  Now, in the age of technology, access to virtually every product under the sun is available on-line.  

The same holds true in the evolution of the employer/employee relationship where businesses are leveraging improved technology but often lacking the most important fundamental element of success; human capital.    A generation ago it was not uncommon for people to spend their entire career with one company.   In more recent years, amidst massive reductions in force and off shoring, that loyalty has waned.   Now, in the wake of massive government mandates resulting in record unemployment, the employer/employee dynamic has forever changed with an increased focus by business of obtaining solutions from reliable sources on the outside. 

Herein lies the opportunity for those looking to expand their roles.  According to Business Week, “…companies should expand beyond their existing resources through licensing arrangements, strategic alliances, and supplier relationships.”

In our own organization, we count a number of key relationships that give us the expertise necessary to provide solutions to a much broader audience than going it alone.   It is through this diverse and robust conglomeration of people that true cross functional solutions can be provided, creating a competitive edge over those with the more ubiquitous silo solutions. 

By understanding the changing dynamics of the economy, now is proving to be an opportune time to take your strategic vision to the next level.   As stated in Fortune Magazine, “Alliances have become an integral part of contemporary strategic thinking.”

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Chris Tidball is a business consultant, 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 improve their bottom line with no new money required.  To learn more, visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidbal.com

December 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

Insourcing or outsourcing? What really matters are the people, processes and results

An often asked question by business leaders is why should I pay someone to do the work when I can just do it myself?  Given my position of providing support services to a wide variety of industries from insurance carriers and hospitals to utilities and governments my answer may come as a surprise.

There is absolutely no need whatsoever to outsource if, and only if, an organization has the resources and infrastructure to do it better internally.   Having spent more than twenty years in the confines of multiple Fortune 500 companies, I can attest to the limitations that exist which have given rise to the myriad of vendors plying a variety of trades. 

The most common obstacle to doing something internally is manpower.  Businesses have become increasingly wary of expanding their workforce for a variety of reasons.   Until there is some semblance of confidence in the economic direction of the country, this is unlikely to change.   Beyond that are levels of bureaucracy that can sometimes impede interal production.  As a result, it is sometimes easier to look outwards for assistance. 

From in sourcing processes to using low cost vendors, expenses often are the overriding factor in making decisions.   While perceived upfront costs should always be a consideration, business leaders should never minimize the potential costs associated with lack of expertise, inefficiencies or dumbed down processes used to drive down price points. 

Consider the case of a large financial institution that opted to utilize a low bid vendor for subrogation collections.   Certainly the upfront costs were slightly cheaper than other bidders.  But to achieve those price points, the service provider relied on a lower skill set of employees which turned out to be a costly error after unfair trade practice allegations began to surface.   In the end, the costs of the ensuing litigation more than erased the upfront perceived savings. 

During my tenure overseeing claims vendor management for a large insurer, daily solicitations were the norm.   Invariably, they always said the same thing.   They were unique, innovative and better than the competition.   I was certainly not alone, as this ubiquitous presentation is what procurement staff in any industry is confronted with.    The challenge is to separate those who can from those who say they can and the reality is that if a service provider has not walked in the shoes of their potential business partner they will be ineffective. 

There is a reason that some products cost more than others.   Reliability, quality, safety all drive our decision making process when looking at commodities such as cars.    The same should hold true when deciding how to run a process.   Can I do it better myself or do I need help?  Will my help know what they are doing or will they get me sued?  Can I save money beyond the upfront perceived savings?   Can I reduce my internal staffing costs? What is my realistic net back to the bottom line? 

Numbers can be very fuzzy and those presenting the numbers should be held to account.   Those asking the questions need to understand what their internal results have been and then measure them against what is being presented.   If something is too good to be true, it probably is just that.  If much of the proposed savings come in the form of “soft” savings, be leery.   Effective and credible business partnes will give proposed client’s solid numbers with a quantifiable return on investment.  

The reality is that the most successful organizations identify the most effective processes.  Certainly an organization isn’t going to build a fleet of cars for their staff because it wouldn’t be cost effective; unless you happen to be GM, Ford or Honda.    So the million dollar question remains at what point to economies of scale make sense for internalization of process?  The answer is that it varies, but what doesn’t vary is the need for a quality at all costs approach.  

Expertise costs money.   But with expertise comes results.   Simply put, if given a choice between paying $100 dollars for something that could probably get you $110 back or paying $150 dollars for someone who could guarantee getting you $500 back what would you do?  The same holds true with business processes relationships.  

Rather than looking at the upfront cost savings, focus on the long term benefits.  While a percentage point here or there may be enticing, is it really worth it if millions of dollars are left on the table?  As the Chinese proverb says, “if you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

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Chris Tidball spent more than twenty years in a number of claims related functions in the insurance industry.  He is a business consultant, contributing writer to Claims Magazine and the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.  He works with the insurance, healthcare, utility and government sectors to improve their bottom line.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com.

December 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm 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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