Finishing 2017 Strong | Bellwether Fall 2017

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Volume 8 | Fall 2017

Creating Your

Marketing Plan for

Next Year


Using Sales Rallies to

Drive Revenue Results p.18 Q4 Ready or Not Here it Comes


Get Ready for Black Friday with a New

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Q4 Ready or Not Here it Comes


Get Ready for Black Friday with a New Online Store


Getting the Most Out of Your Leads Before Year End


Fall 2017

Letter from the Editor


Sales & Marketing


Cover Story


Corporate Finance




Industry News


Human Resources


26 18

Finishing 2017: The Final Stretch to Boost Your Bottom Line

Using Sales Rallies to Drive Revenue Results

bell•weth•er -noun:

one who takes initiative or leadership


Creating Your Marketing Plan for Next Year


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Bellwether | Fall 2017


BELLWETHER Volume 8 Fall 2017 EDITOR Apryl Hanson COPY EDITOR Jessica Valenzuela ART DIRECTORS Gary Dahl Jennifer Vo ADVERTISING SALES Jessica Valenzuela SUBSCRIPTIONS Or contact Jessica Valenzuela (949) 583-9500, Extension 1192 Bellwether Magazine is published by Blytheco with principal offices at: 23161 Mill Creek Dr., Suite 200 Laguna Hills, CA 92653 If you wish to be removed from the mailing list or to add names to the mailing list, send your request, including name, business name, and mailing address to the above address or to This is a copyrighted publication and all articles herein are covered by this copyright. Any use of the content for commercial reasons or other form or reproduction of material herein is strictly prohibited without prior, written approval of Bellwether Magazine.



Ready or Not Here it Comes by Alex Gile


you are a consumer goods company, be it manufacturing or distribution, the key to successfully finishing the year strong is preparation, much of which tends to happen in Q3. Last year, according to Forbes Magazine, holiday spending broke through $1 trillion. Are you positioned to increase your slice in an age when retail selling is in upheaval? Actually, there has never a better time to find and retain customers. It’s only nostalgia to think there were times when retail wasn’t being disrupted by new ideas and clever competitors. The only difference is in the pace of change. Helping consumers buy in ways they prefer to shop is becoming more complicated. The shift to online alone—eMarketer projects 2017 eCommerce growth of 15.8% vs. 2% for retail overall—requires adaptation as traditional shelf space shrinks and drop-ships increase. But new buying patterns also reward companies with the agility to capitalize on changes.


Bellwether | Fall 2017


Supporting Your Retailers Remember, about 85% of 2017 holiday purchases will still be made in-store. You must continue serving retailer trading partners well to make sure goods arrive on shelves before buyers walk the aisles. Nearly all retailers require EDI, each with unique twists. Compliance—especially with advance shipment notice specifications—is critical. “Perfect” is the only EDI scorecard that equips retailers to optimize sales of your products. Use Q3 to make sure all your documents are being properly exchanged in a compliant manner so you don’t have to wrestle with any problems or fines in the fourth quarter when every issue is magnified. Using an established commerce network that keeps a pulse on trading relationships is a simple way to alleviate these types of headaches.

You provide features and benefits; they signal preferences through online behaviors. You offer promotions; they provide product reviews and ratings. The take away, use the third quarter to polish your online catalog. Make sure you have crisp images and detailed product descriptions. More than anything, make sure your online catalog is mobile-friendly. During the 2016 Cyber week, our Nexternal eCommerce Platform saw mobile online sales jump over 30% compared to 2015 and we don’t expect a slowdown in growth during this year’s cyber week.

It Gets Better

According to the National Retail Federation, half of all holiday shoppers scout purchases in October or earlier, but only a third buy then. 63% buy in November and the first part of December. 43% make final buying decisions in-store, but nearly 90% of consumers do online homework—no matter where they buy. Even products under $50 are researched by two-thirds of buyers. Mobile devices extend that reach right onto the selling floor.

Once you’ve drawn visitors to your website or Facebook page, offer an incentive to learn their email addresses— maybe a coupon or loyalty card—even if you don’t plan on email campaigns. Did you know that you can now upload email addresses of typical customers to Facebook and serve ads only to new prospects with matching profiles? That’s just one example. Expanding insights that Google and Facebook glean from tracking data will help you target customers with ever-greater precision. Such marketing tactics will reward both your retail and direct channels.

Fortunately, influencing potential buyers before they visit a store is no longer restricted to print and broadcast advertising. Websites, search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, email, and social media are cost-effective ways for suppliers of any size to target customers. They permit you to establish two-way relationships with consumers.

Peter de Vries famously wrote, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.” The good news is that embracing the latest changes in consumer behavior can make you more successful than ever. Use the holiday rush for motivation if you must, but keep the momentum. You can make exciting advances in every season.

Don’t Take Your Eye off the Online Sales Ball

About the Author Alex Gile Senior Vice President, TrueCommerce In 1999, Alex co-founded Nexternal and began working day and night to develop the best eCommerce platform on the market. In January of 2000, Nexternal took its first client live and quickly grew to become a leading eCommerce solution. In May of 2015, Nexternal was acquired by TrueCommerce.


y d a e R Get for



Start Now for End-of-Year E-commerce Sales It’s October and it is much too late to launch a web store in time for end-of-year sales. Or is it? While this may not be the ideal time of year to start a new e-commerce project, it is not to late to create a web store so that you can sell online, anytime, anywhere and without manual data entry. How is this possible? Read on for some quick start tips. When choosing to set up e-commerce, many companies think about the web store design. However, there are several other decisions that need to be made before implementing e-commerce: 1. What e-commerce storefront will you use? Is it for existing B2B customers, new retail customers or both? 2. Will you customize the website or create it with a standard template? 3. How do you prefer to host the web store? 4. How will you handle warehousing and shipments? 5. To what degree will you integrate the e-commerce system with existing software systems?

Answering these questions will help you narrow your options. 10

Bellwether | Fall 2017

SALES&MARKETING Creating a New Webstore There are many options for creating a web store today. For instance, to service existing (B2B) customers, a quick option to launch an integrated web store is to link a portal to the backend. One solution that comes integrated with Sage 100 is which offers a B2B portal that can be linked to your existing website. This will make shopping a breeze for current customers and is a great choice for displaying a large catalog. Another powerful option for a large catalog is Magento. The newest version of Magento offers faster time to market, easier site maintenance, and better scalability. The Magento cart can be plugged into an existing website and with integration to the accounting system, provides easy account access for B2B customers. Retail businesses with only a few items to sell online, that can limit options to size, color, or material, should consider solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce. These solutions are quick to market, offer professionally designed templates and hundreds of additional apps. They are hosted, so there is no need to shop for, arrange, and manage the server. Quick Start Tip: Leverage your existing corporate site with a B2B portal as a quick-to-market strategy. Also, starting with fewer items and variations will allow you to choose from a greater range of affordable, easy-set-up shopping cart options.

Choosing Logistics and Marketplace Options Do you have both B2B and B2C needs? Take a look at popular options for e-commerce sales through eBay, Walmart Marketplace or Amazon. These marketplaces offer a great go to market path and tremendous volume opportunities. A very important part of setting up a quick e-commerce site is establishing logistics to get the orders from the online site and into the customers’ hands. Options for logistics include self-fulfillment, third-party, or some combination of the two. One example of third-party logistics is the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. With FBA, tasks include setting up product listings on Amazon, labeling items to Amazon’s standards, shipping items to Amazon, and responding to customer inquiries (sent through Amazon).

Amazon takes care of customer service, inventory management, shipping, and returns for the FBA seller. Shipping costs are very low as an FBA. However, maintaining inventory with Amazon can be costly, because the seller pays for storage space, and storage fees get higher the longer the product sits in the warehouse. Another Amazon option that offers more control over sales is Amazon’s Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) seller program. In this self-fulfillment program, the seller lists products on Amazon, provides customer service, shipping (meeting Amazon’s quick turnarounds), and inventory management. Quick Start Tip: Choosing third-party logistics can help you gear up quickly for high e-commerce sales volumes and keep your shipping costs low.

Setting Up Accounting Software Integration Whether a hosted site or marketplace; a feature rich B2B portal or a basic solution; customer satisfaction is paramount. The best way to keep customers happy is to ensure accurate, real-time inventory information on the web store, as well as accurate, instant, order information for the back offices and shop floor. The level of integration can vary; options include accounting, customer information, order history, inventory levels and more. With seamless, bi-directional synchronization between the e-commerce solution and business software, operations will be quick and efficient, with real-time visibility into sales and inventory performance. Order fulfillment will be streamlined because manual data entry is eliminated. Quick Start Tip: Choose a system integrator who has experience in both your business software and your e-commerce solution for fast turnaround and accuracy. Engage them in the project early. Start with basic integration and add on as your e-commerce business grows.

ROI Consulting is the market’s leading e-commerce solution and Sage 100 integration specialist, maximizing Sage 100 customer’s technology investment through integration and customization since 1997. Learn more about ROI’s integration solutions for Sage 100 at or by calling Ruth Richter at 402-934-2223x1.

About the Author Ruth Richter is the Customer Experience Director for ROI Consulting, Inc, a Sage 100 integration company.


Redefining eCommerce It’s a business solution, Not a technology problem by Stephen Midgley


oo often businesses look at technology as being the domain of the IT department. Usually born out of this deep rooted fear of technology. Consequently businesses tend to err on the side of procrastination when it comes to technology adoption. It’s a classic case of “head in the sand approach” to technology. A business as usual approach taken at their own peril.


Bellwether | Fall 2017


Why? Because technology, specifically digitization, is impacting every industry. Digitization is accelerating and you are faced with the reality that your business and industry are in the midst of significant change – change driven by technological innovation. Digital represents a complete mind shift. From how you engage with your customers, partners, and suppliers, to the internal processes by which you operate your business.

The most important criterion for any eCommerce solution is integration with your backend system. If your existing, or proposed, eCommerce solution is forcing you to enter web orders into your back-end system, or manually update pricing into your webstore, you do not have an integrated eCommerce solution. What you do have is a disconnected solution that is not scalable, prone to human error, and will ultimately result in customer dissatisfaction.

This digitization is being driven by the consumerization of your customers and partners. They all are users of technology on a daily basis. And that usage, that digital behavior, is changing their expectations on how they conduct business with you.

Integration means you have seamless replication in your webstore of the business logic you have predefined in your backend system, such as pricing, inventory, sales and customer data. Integration means all orders entered by your customers and partners into your webstore are automatically generated in your back-end system.

eCommerce should be, and is, the great equalizer. When it comes to eCommerce, size simply does not matter. Experience and engagement matter. Larger businesses may be able to compete using their size and market share as leverage in the traditional model, but digitizing on a large scale can be cumbersome as they often must deal with legacy, non-integrated backend systems. Small and medium businesses have a lot to gain in the digital era. eCommerce allows you to think big. It puts enabling technology into your hands that was previously too expensive or too hard to access.

Only with an integrated eCommerce solution can you transform your business and create measurable value, improve customer experience and engagement, increase profit margins, and improve time-to-market. For these reasons alone, integration must be at the top of your eCommerce requirements checklist. You need to consider eCommerce as a business accelerator, improving your operating efficiencies while driving incremental revenue. You need to embrace the opportunities of eCommerce as a business solution. Not something to be confined to the domain of the IT department.

For this reason you must view eCommerce as a business solution, not a technology problem. You need to examine it from a business perspective. The marketplace is crowded with eCommerce vendors. So to determine the right solution for your business, you first need to understand what your business goals are in terms of eCommerce. Ask yourself what kind of value you want eCommerce to create for your business and your customers?

Learn more about Sage eCommerce and XM Developments at

About the Author Stephen Midgley - Vice President, Marketing Stephen is responsible for leading Marketing and Product Management at XM Developments. Prior to joining XM, Stephen served as Vice President, Global Marketing at Absolute Software, a leading cyber security software vendor and was Senior Director, Global Web Marketing and Marketing Operations at business intelligence vendor Business Objects. Stephen holds degrees from University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He is also a graduate of UBC’s executive leadership program and is past lecturer at UBC on online marketing best practices.


Getting the Most Out of your

Leads Before Year End by Apryl Hanson

No matter the timeframe, don’t we always want to get the most out of our leads? You may be interested in reading this article if: • You feel you haven’t been tracking your leads well. • You don’t have a refined process for lead development. • You are worried that you are leaving money on the table with leads that you have already created this year. • You don’t feel like you are closing the right amount of business from leads. If you are experiencing any one of the issues mentioned above (tracking, lead processing and development, missing opportunities and closing more) then this article is for you.


Bellwether | Fall 2017


So maybe you haven’t been tracking your leads well Did you know that responding within one hour makes you seven times more likely to qualify the lead and get them into sales cycle? You are sixty times more likely to close them as other companies who respond later. Despite this information, only 37% of companies reach out to digital leads within one hour. In most cases, it takes companies more than twenty-four hours to respond to leads. When you don’t call within one hour it’s like throwing money out the window. Tracking your leads, knowing when they come in, and having a response process that sends them to the right person is worth spending time on. You could increase your chances of qualifying and talking to the right person at the company within an hour of receiving the lead. Monitoring the incoming leads and having a response team that accurately inputs the data into a CRM (customer relationship management) system is vital. Or, if your online and CRM systems are connected, the data will show up in your system and get routed to the correct person in the business to make that call. Time stamps allow you to see the time of lead entry (if it is automatic) and the time of the call. Make this a KPI (key performance indicator) and measure it often.

Maybe you have a hard time qualifying leads If this is the source of your pain, you need to come up with a process that is measured and allows your team to have success. Did you know that an average sales teams only make 1.3 calls to incoming leads to try to qualify them? This practice is another reason why internet leads are wasted. Along with the time it takes to get to them, and the average number of times your teams have tried to reach out, you could be wasting your digital dollars. With six call attempts, potentially even 9, (for a hot lead) it will increase your chances of qualifying a lead by 93% according to research from Velocity. Dr. James Oldroyd and completed research that shared details about when the best times are to contact a lead. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s are the best days to call if you want to contact someone. 4 PM to 6 PM is the best times to call to contact a lead (after lunch is the worst time), while 8-9AM and 4-5PM are the best times to call to qualify a lead or set an appointment. Structuring your team’s immediate response to leads, follow-ups in the right, and calling hours 6-9 times will increase your chances of getting more prospects into your pipeline. Increasing your lead regiment with leads is all it takes to close more with the same amount of leads that you are receiving today. In fact, if you aren’t following some of these practices but instead you’re spending time developing more leads, you are flushing your hard-earned money you know where! Continued on next page


Maybe the leads in your pipeline aren’t closing, and you’re not sure what to do about it Getting leads into the pipeline is only one part of the equation. In fact, you can be good at producing leads and still not be able to close them. Why? If you don’t have a tested and proven sales philosophy with measurements and stages, how will you know? Some sales people give anecdotal information about leads and the reasons they do or do not close a lead. This information may not be useful. Your sales process needs:

• Defined stages • Reasons why a lead can move from one stage to the next

• Actions that MUST happen in each stage • A close plan (the things that must be completed for a lead to close) If you don’t have these steps defined, your sales people will be “winging it”. You might find with winging it, that some of your sales people are closing and others are not. With a defined process (of what works for your closers) being taught and measured across your business, you will increase your team’s overall performance as well as the company’s sales. Putting sales processes into a CRM system, allows you to see the number of deals in each stage as well as the close percentage, this will help you increase your close rates. Having visibility into the deal stage and close possibilities will help you build a pipeline forecast that is consistently accurate. In addition to seeing what is going to close, you can also understand performance issues. For instance, a particular sales person may constantly stall out at a certain stage or

with a certain type of prospect. Having details in your CRM system that you can slice and dice by rep, type of deal, industry, etc. will help you get the training and coaching for your sales team to help them improve.

What if business still isn’t closing? Let’s imagine you have been through the above list and are still having trouble closing leads. Then it’s time to look deeper. To do this, get feedback from prospects that you haven’t closed. Conduct interviews at a level higher in the organization than sales and ask open-ended questions to determine potential causes of lost deals. Lost sales can have a variety of other reasons besides what we have mentioned so far in this article. A few examples are:

• • • • • •

Competitors in your industry An issue with your sales process A brand issue (bad press) Stronger product or service offerings elsewhere Price Negative experience with individuals on the sales team

To close the year strong, start with increasing the measurement and data around your sales process. Use the numbers we have provided in this article, such as calling within an hour of lead arrival and following up 6-9 times to help you increase your times at bat. When engaged in a sales cycle, make sure you can measure performance with solid stages and processes taking potential customers through the various steps. Becoming a measurable sales machine will get you to your numbers for 2017 and set you up to increase sales in 2018.

About the Author Apryl Hanson is Blytheco’s Senior Director of Customer and Partner Strategy. She has more than 15 years of management experience within the software industry, including having served as Director of Partner Programs and Development, and Director of Sales at Sage. Connect with her on Twitter @AprylHanson.


Bellwether | Fall 2017


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Using Sales Rallies to Drive

REVENUE RESULTS by Patrice Ruane

An Interview

with Lori Seal COO of Blytheco


he numbers…you know the ones. The numbers a company measures success by. We set our annual budget targets, considering the risks and stretching our potential. The year begins – with a bang! We’re elated, confident, until we find ourselves in the 3rd quarter; in a sailboat with no wind. What do we do then?

I sat down with Lori Seal, Chief Operating Officer at Blytheco, to seek her insights. Here, she shares leadership strategies to drive solid budget achievement and how to rally a company together to create that “top line push.”


Bellwether | Fall 2017



Before I can rally a team, I need to believe in my targets.”


Team members must have visibility into the goals in order to drive to them,”

Four Steps to Achieving Your Revenue Goals Set Intelligent Targets “Before I can rally a team, I need to believe in my targets.” This opening statement from Lori was all about the integrity of the goal. These targets must be achievable, grounded in data and business trends, and supported by strategies and tactics. The goals should also be aspirational. A high performing team is not motivated by the status quo. It’s about finding the balance between “stretch” and “achievable” goals and then resourcing for success. Having team member “buy in” to the targets up front is also critical. By collaborating with leaders and managers around their respective department targets, co-ownership for the goal can be better ensured.

Practice Goal Transparency “Team members must have visibility into the goals in order to drive to them,” Lori shared, in a classic “know thy goals” mantra. While most companies share financial goals and results with their executive teams throughout the year, Blytheco takes it a step further by sharing these company-wide. This occurs at monthly meetings focusing on financial performance, key initiatives, core values, and recognition. “We engage our team members like owners, which creates a spirit of accountability and ownership for our collective numbers.” When a company shares financial information more broadly, financial education and context is key. Explain to team members the levers of the business and help them make sense of it all. When team members understand what it really takes for you to sustain your business, they become better stewards of the company resources and drivers. If financial confidentiality is a concern, don’t NOT share. Instead, find creative ways to share goals and results that remove the numbers (bar charts with the axis removed work beautifully). Seeing a visual “goal thermometer” or a “goal column” versus a “results column” conveys all the necessary insights without revealing actual numbers. Lastly, help employees understand the WIIFM (“What’s In It For Them”). At Blytheco, as an example, we connect performance success to our ability to invest in team member experiences, such as professional development and training, more modern tools, expanded resources, teambuilding and cultural events, and profit-sharing through our 401k match. When employees understand how our company success benefits their success, they champion our collective results.

3 Staying focused and agile here is critical.”

Pull the Levers Proactively As the year takes shape, certain business areas may be underperforming while others may be over performing. Diving into the individual levers is key. Blytheco’s leadership team engages in deeper financial reviews to understand challenges and find opportunities. They brainstorm ideas to remedy or improve challenged areas and to invest in areas where there is success and upside. “Staying focused and agile here is critical.” Lori summarized this by saying, “Proactive attention to performance allows the executive team to capitalize on emerging opportunities and reduce risk while the company has time to adjust.” Continued on next page


Use a Positive Rally A revenue rally can be a powerful tool to supercharge results during times of need. Lori shares some best practices in launching a rally:

• Be Positive: It is critical to keep the

Driving results is not a license to do bad business.”

tone upbeat and motivating. The worst outcome would be to release fear or panic into the organization. The tone should always include two things: confidence in the team’s ability and gratitude for the team’s contributions. Avoid messages of fear, blame or criticism.

• Communicate Often and Visually:

During a rally, it is critical to communicate progress regularly, to encourage consistent mindshare. Tools like thermometer graphics to illustrate progress, or other visual displays, build energy and excitement. Friendly competition among team members using a Leaderboard can be a powerful motivational tool. And finally, celebrate all wins publically, whether large or small.

• Emphasize Core Values: Remind the

team to protect core business values during hard sales pushes. As Lori articulates, “Driving results is not a license to do bad business.” By keeping the emphasis on quality and not on volume alone, companies are more likely to establish strong partnerships that will be mutually beneficial for years to come.

• Avoid Overuse: Rallies are great

• Go Company Wide: A sales rally should go beyond involving just the sales team. Rallies are most powerful when they unite the entire company to come together and finish strong. Done right, the sales team feels supported and all employees understand their significance to company success.

motivational tools that should be reserved for times when they’re absolutely necessary. They are not only reserved for year-end, but should be used sparingly (i.e. not to exceed twice per year). Avoid being the “boy who cries wolf.” What makes a rally powerful is the special focus signaling the need for above and beyond efforts.

Get Ready, Get Set, RALLY! So what’s the big takeaway? According to Lori, it’s to focus on the big picture. “Amplifying awareness, insights and enthusiasm among team members creates the energy and action that produces results. Present rallies with a transparent and positive message about who we are as a company – a family who comes together and produces magic.”

About the Author Patrice Ruane, MFA, has 10 years of experience in business writing and proposal development. As Blytheco’s Proposal Analyst, she manages client-facing documentation and deliverables for their outside sales team. Connect with her at


Bellwether | Fall 2017

Creating Your

Marketing Plan for


Next Year

by Apryl Hanson

reating a marketing calendar for an entire year often seems like a daunting task. You may have an existing calendar which can serve as a template, or have never had a calendar at all – either way, in this article, we will help you by using our no stress tips on creating an excellent marketing calendar to support your business.


Bellwether | Fall 2017

COVERSTORY Start with the end in mind - Goals

The Content

When you start with the end in mind, it helps you build a marketing calendar which has the right elements and assumptions to reach the audience you are looking to respond to your messages. Regardless if you have multiple products and services, or just one, you’ll want to understand what your sales targets are for the year so you can create a calendar that makes sense.

Now that you know the numbers and various channels to create results, it comes down to the content that is required to deliver the results for your business. At this stage, you will want to identify any resources you need to achieve the results. Do you need someone to create content? Do you need to purchase lists? All of this will go into your marketing budget.

Once you have the sales targets identified, you will know how many purchases you need. First, work a reverse funnel starting with how many of those sales you expect marketing to deliver to the business. Once you identify the number of sales required for marketing, you will want to look at the various channels needed to deliver those sales.

What are the various activities needed? How long does it take to create a campaign or prepare for a trade show? Know what the lead time is and create a calendar that offers launch information as well as project start dates with major milestones to stay on top of everything you want to achieve.

Determine the Channels Channels include the website, email campaigns, trade shows, advertising, direct mail, social, etc. If you have an idea of how much business should come from each avenue, it will help you plan accordingly for the resources needed for those various channels.

Work the Math Once you understand the various channels you will be using, look at the past results you’ve had in those various channels. If you don’t have any results that can help you understand the numbers associated with those channels, I recommend taking a look at industry averages for the various channels. For instance, if your average email open rate is 19% and your average click through rate is 2.3%, you can create a formula telling you how many email communications you need to send to get the responses needed. Working these numbers back is a more pragmatic way of looking at what you want to achieve.

Check Points Creating a marketing calendar for an entire year can be risky. Why? Change occurs during the year; market shifts happen that impact your marketing calendars relevance. In fact, many industries are moving so fast, that changes occur quarterly. To keep up with the changes, I recommend taking a look at your marketing on a monthly or quarterly basis (depending on volume and campaigns you are running). When you do this, you will want to look at the results from previous time frames, talk about any learnings and changes, and give a preview into anything planned going forward. Having a review gives you an opportunity to speak to any changes you may put in place before rolling out your next set of campaigns. Now you are all set to start planning your marketing calendar for the year. Start with the numbers and work through the various channels before you get to creation of the “what.” If you are looking for tools to help organize and track your team’s marketing performance, we are happy to share the tools we use internally to help run our marketing team.

About the Author Apryl Hanson is Blytheco’s Senior Director of Customer and Partner Strategy. She has more than 15 years of management experience within the software industry, including having served as Director of Partner Programs and Development, and Director of Sales at Sage. Connect with her on Twitter @AprylHanson.


Ways to get corporate spend under control by Salim Khalife

The old management adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, still holds true, especially when it comes to business spending. Companies that begin tracking and measuring their expenditures before spending are best able to control expenses, comply with industry and business mandates and grow their profitability. Here we’ve highlighted five ways you can get an early start on managing your company’s procurement process.


Bellwether | Fall 2017


Centralize buying Centralizing the purchasing functions of an organization is good for business. You gain buying power, better positioning with vendors and improved communications across all departments and cost centers. Procurement and spend management software is the place to start centralizing your purchasing functions. With all direct and indirect spending routed through the same system, you can leverage your buying power, minimize waste and drive efficiency into the process.

Decentralize requisitions While the purchasing process benefits from centralization, the requisition process benefits from decentralization. By limiting the ability to create requisitions to only certain users, or only when employees are on site, the entire process is slowed – or bypassed - creating bottlenecks that kill efficiency. Empower employees across all departments to make use of the requisition function to save time and eliminate inefficiencies. Functions like guided buying catalogs make it convenient for employees to pick from a list of companyselected items and easily create a requisition to be routed for approval. Mobile access allows off-site employees to efficiently create requisitions and check on the status of existing requests.

Implement smart approvals A well-designed and well-enforced requisition process is fundamental to managing spend before it starts. But if the approval process is overly burdensome and lengthy, employees may look for ways to work around the process, sabotaging your efforts to manage spending. A secure, easy-to-use procurement solution with flexible approval workflows and mobile accessibility goes a long way towards promoting user adoption and bringing more of your spending under management.

Watch that budget A company’s best efforts at spend management can be thwarted when purchases exceed budgeted amounts. Employees may simply not be aware of budget constraints when requesting items or budget values may be unavailable to them. This leaves the job of budget control with the approver(s). Spend management solutions often incorporate advanced budgeting engines that enforce your corporate budget throughout the entire requisition and procurement processes.

RFQs keep pricing competitive Even when you have established relationships with trusted vendors, it makes smart fiscal sense to ensure you continue to get the best pricing. But manually managing the request for quote (RFQ) process is time consuming and leads to duplicate data entry when it’s time to award the contract. Procurement and spend management solutions automate the RFQ process to simplify and streamline the tasks involved. For example, you can elect to hand select the vendors you wish to bid, or let the software make smart recommendations based on factors like rank and commodity code. The system can email vendors notifying them of the new requests, and notify you when the bids come in. Once you decide on the winning bid, you can quickly convert it into a requisition without rekeying.

The key to effective spend management is to start before you spend. Paramount WorkPlace effectively manages all aspects of the procurement process.

About the Author Salim Khalife is the founder, president and CEO of Paramount WorkPlace, a technology company that develops, sells, and supports advanced web-based and mobile requisition, procurement, and expense software solutions for mid-market organizations. The company introduced its first cloud-based SaaS requisition application in 1997, and continues to innovate and expand its partnerships and integrations ever since. Learn more at




Vision is a destination - a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route - an adaptable path to get us where we want to go.” – Simon Sinek


e’re getting into the final stretch of the year, a time when many businesses scramble to get back on track and meet the goals they had set back in January. This requires a daily review of financial reporting, controlling expenses, maximizing sales revenue and realigning marketing and market focus. These are all plain things and still the main things that remain vital factors in hitting it home at year-end. No matter how close you may be from achieving your goals for 2017, making a strong and successful finish should be your #1 “business imperative” for Q. 4.


Q4 – Window of opportunity Even if things have gone somewhat awry, it’s almost always possible to get your business back on track to a successful, profitable, and lucrative future. However, with just three months and two major holidays ahead in 2017, the focus needs to sharpen on a basic reality and major question:

What can be done to make the biggest bottom-line contribution to my business, without deterring the priorities, progress and positive path we’ve achieved so far? This is motivating and impactful logic for every business, and a lot easier than most organizations actually realize! How? It’s directly in your accounts payable process – by transitioning your vendor/supplier disbursements to electronic payments.

Using electronic payments to improve your bottom-line There are more ways that electronic payments can improve your bottom line than you might think. Migrating AP away from manual paper-based supplier check processing to ePayments offers benefits in a number of areas – all with a positive and immediate impact on your bottom line:


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CORPORATEFINANCE Cost Reduction: Industry researchers estimate the cost of issuing a paper check to be in a range of $3 -$10, depending on the hard and hidden costs that are considered. These costs will often include items such as check stock, printing, envelopes and postage, along with processing time and resources used. The cost of processing electronic payments is only a small fraction of that amount in comparison. Time Savings: Resource deployment costs are always the largest contributor to the cost of any business operation. Accounts payable is no exception. Processing payments via paper checks is a highly labor-intensive process. When you transition to electronic payments, you eliminate the time valuable resources devote the check printing process and manually preparing checks for mailing. Your AP staff is then free to focus on more important and productive work.

Ways to Save: Electronic payments are extremely fast and can put your company on a preferred status with your key vendors. As a “preferred” customer, vendors will often offer you better pricing and early payment discounts. Many companies that use electronic payments are pleasantly surprised to find that those two perks actually represent a healthy new revenue stream. Security: Fraud is always an issue in the payment process and the cost. According to the new 2017 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey, 75 percent of companies were targets of payments fraud last year. Additionally, 75 percent of these organizations experienced check fraud in 2016. This is an increase from 71 percent in 2015 and a reversal of the declining trend in check fraud since 2010:

Percent of Organizations that Experienced Attempted and/or Actual Payments Fraud, 2006-2016

The increased security controls available with electronic payments help reduce the costs of fraud, theft and lost checks. Companies also see a reduction in duplicate payments that drain cash resources and require manual intervention.

Raising the Bar - Virtual Cards: Virtual Cards (V-Cards) are essentially “card-less” credit card payments, designed as a more secure alternative to ACH, check payments and physical cards. A V-Card is a unique 16-digit computer generated number used to settle a specific vendor payment transaction issued for a specific dollar amount. Virtual card numbers are randomly created for a one-time transaction in a specific amount, so no trail to a physical credit card or number exists. Unlike ACH and check payments, with virtual payment cards vendors no longer have to share or expose their bank account information. This creates an even stronger security benefit in using virtual payments. V-Card ePayments: a new revenue stream: Companies that use virtual cards may qualify to receive monthly rebate revenue. Just think about this new revenue stream as a percent of the accounts payable dollars you pay.

Final Thoughts If you’re looking to “Boost the Bottom-Line” in 2017 with electronic vendor payments, the experts at ACOM can help. We help clients transition to 100 percent paperless disbursements, with our “cloud-based” ePayables Payment solution. One platform to manage all of your supplier payments, including onboarding and managing the entire vendor ePayment transition. Call your Blytheco representative to find out how or call us directly at 800-347-3638. Or contact us online for more information.

About the Author Warren Glick: Marketing and operations executive, ERP and FINTECH industry author and guest contributor; Warren brings over 22 years of leadership experience in BPM, financial process automation and commerce.




January 1st, 2018 will be here before you know it, but what does that mean in terms of revenue recognition standards? Yes, it’s the start of the New Year but it also means changes are among us. As you may have heard, The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) announced a new, joint set of revenue recognition guidelines back in May 2014. This change is known as ASC 606 or Accounting Standard Codification, Topic 606.


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The core principle for this new guideline is as follows: “Recognize revenue to depict the transfer of goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services.� Sounds simple right? The particulars are where it really starts to get meticulous. Thinking your industry is safe from this change? No industry is safe from the repercussions of ASC 606, however some will be impacted more than others including Software & High Tech, Retail & Distribution, Manufacturing, VARs and Solution Providers, Media/ Publishing/Advertising and Nonprofits. Finance and IT departments will endure the biggest impact of ASC 606. All preexisting financial systems must be evaluated on their ability to precisely cover all variations of an organizations countless revenue measures. Finance teams must support current processes and systems to ensure compliance. In terms of bigger organizations, this will prove to be a more daunting task due to the rigidity of established financial systems. In addition, updating a conventional financial/ERP system harnesses an encumbrance on IT administrators who are tasked with a lengthy exercise and have to heavily rely on both staff and budgets.

Benefits of ASC 606 So what are the benefits of implementing this big change? Flexible revenue management engine for one followed by malleable reporting capabilities and the capability to recognize revenue concurrently. Overall, organizations will benefit from a modern approach to the challenge of complying with ever changing governing principles. Companies need a revolutionary revenue mechanism that encompasses an altogether automated workflow that includes revenue arrangement including construction, allocation, adjustment, expectations, charge, billing detail and reporting.

Three Challenges of ASC 606 With everyone adopting the new rules all at the same time it will take some time to get a clear understanding of what the impacts are to an organization. The solution for this? Begin to have conversations with auditors and colleagues to understand the specific impacts on revenue recognition for your industry. Second, revenue recognition is dependent on many interconnected processes so incorporating a financial system with integrated order management, billing and revenue recognition provides end-to-end automation and removes manual work. Lastly, communicating to investors about the changes and how to evaluate moving the business forward may pose as a challenge. In order to get around this, organizations must get ahead of the communication game and ensure investors know any and all impacts to the business. The ASC 606 is the most prevalent change to happen to revenue accounting in decades. The transition into ASC 606 will influence your whole organization, from employees to activity to procedures. Sales, operations, provisions, billing, service groups, company auditors and board of directors will also need to get on board with ASC 606. The good news about moving to ASC 606 is that it bestows a tactical opportunity for organizations to be free of unyielding, antiquated systems and bring something flexible and effective to the table. The best approach to this change is to start today. Companies must begin to assess the impacts across their entire organization. It will take time for finance teams to become accustomed to the changes, adapt to auditor interpretations, strategize for reporting during transition periods and organize for the new level of meticulousness needed to back the augmented use of management judgment and the resulting disclosures. The quicker an organization can grasp acquiescence of ASC 606, the quicker it can put respected resources and attentiveness back to what matters the most: moving business development ahead.

Works Cited

About the Author

NetSuite Whitepaper. (2016) Retrieved from

Alana Bellinger, Campaign Manager at HEEDGroup located in New York City.

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“TAKE STOCK” All Year Long

by Joni Girardi

About this time of year, many executives take a look around the organization and ask, “What’s the scoop? How are we doing?” Those who have to ask, I’ve found, usually suffer from an inadequate or ill-fitting BI (Business Intelligence) system.

Three critical factors make the distinction between a BI system that makes a difference all year and one that doesn’t. I’m more convinced of this each year with every mid-sized organization I help, and I’ve been doing this 17 years. The strongest organizations — where executives know how they’re doing — have infused data intelligence throughout the organization. Business users like their data analysis tools, executives embrace fact-based decision making, and every day someone finds a new and more valuable use for the data. Additionally, the BI platform keeps up with the company’s evolving needs. Less successful organizations see business users ignoring data analysis and reports. These users can’t find the relevant data and executives continue to rely on “gut feeling.” Here are the three primary factors contributing to the lack of success: executive commitment, expertise in selecting and implementing a BI platform, and having a well-fitting BI system.

Executive commitment “Too many C-levels get tech information from their kids,” says integration expert Lamont Lockwood. He says that most execs use information that a few tech employees created for them. “To them, BI is a result, not a process.” 32

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TECHNOLOGY To get better results, decision makers should have a basic understanding of the process. Lack of executive involvement may cause IT to make assumptions about priorities, milestones, and budgets. Also, budgets based on executives’ misinformed assumptions leads to overspending. I’ve seen too many BI projects start with an inadequate budget because of an executive who failed to engage. In one case, the IT and finance department made the budget recommendations without a background in BI. They struggled with costs and features. Had management been more involved, they would likely have opted for a larger budget for a much better fit. In another case, a CFO we worked with had been initially unhappy with our results. For over a month, we worked on adjustments deemed essential by his IT team. He stated, “I want to access my data as soon as possible, so I can tell you what adjustments to focus on.” In two days, he saw how rough his data was. His new, specific directions let us know exactly where to focus.

Expertise in selecting and implementing a BI platform Growing SMBs have data needs that are comparable to large enterprises. Though SMBs don’t match enterprises in data volume, they often do match them in data complexity — and that calls for expert help in selecting a BI platform. I’ve seen many companies choose a BI solution only to later realize it was underpowered, too complicated, or too slow. After all the investment of time and money, they give up on it and started over. One distribution company selected a popular analytics solution provided by their ERP vendor. It seemed to have the necessary pieces: a data warehouse, a web and mobile-based user interface, and some canned connections to the ERP system. However, they didn’t realize this solution could not handle their large data volume and data consolidation. After a year trying to make it work, they faced facts: the system was too complex and performed poorly. Had a BI expert been involved early on, they could have avoided a year of frustration and a wasted 6-figure investment.

Successful BI selection and implementations call for expertise in a variety of areas, including data sources such as ERP, CRM, payroll systems, and Google Analytics; data consolidation with a data warehouse; reporting and analytics tools; translation of business needs into technical requirements and vice-versa; project management. Selection and implementation clearly call for engagement by executives.

Having a well-fitting BI platform The BI tool has to match business needs. The dozens of tools available to mid-sized companies vary widely in functionality, ease of use, and performance. Some come dedicated to specific functions, such as alerts or budgeting. Some are platforms, into which analytics tools, budgeting, alerts, and data mining tools can be added. The distribution company mentioned before is an example of an ill-fitting BI. The team selecting the initial solution didn’t have enough expertise to understand the ERP built-in BI could not perform at a reasonable speed and would require many hours of custom work. The “best” platform is one that satisfies the organization’s needs. What’s the scope of your questions? What are your data sources? How much data do you have now and what do you expect to have a few years out? What tools do you have already? How quickly can you adapt to new questions regarding your data? They are inevitable. Will someone from IT have to go in and reconfigure, or can you adjust on the fly? Does your technology “break” easily? Maturity is important.

Staying with the data all year long The right steps to make meaningful use of data — to know “the scoop” every day — are these: get the executives involved, find the right technical expertise, and then buy technology that fits now and offers the best chance of adapting as the business evolves. I know how tough it is to do well. That’s why it is important to work with BI professionals that can first, give you an unbiased education about BI, second, give you the good and the bad of your current situation, and finally, implement a bullet-proof system that will grow with you.

About the Author Joni Girardi is founder and CEO of DataSelf, a provider of DataSelf Analytics. He launched his venture 17 years ago to help small- and medium-sized businesses to get value from their data using MS SQL data warehousing and analytics platforms such as Tableau and Power BI. When he finds a prospect where his business offerings are a great fit, he gets excited! His BI projects are fun and successful!


Assessing Your

Software Systems



onsidering a software replatforming project can be a daunting task, especially if you want to take a holistic view of your company’s challenges, requirements and goals. We see companies at this stage make two fundamental mistakes – rushing into a system that just replaces the old one (without considering whether some changes may advance their business), or getting bogged down in too many details, so that their information-gathering never produces actionable results.

How do companies begin to assess their current software systems to determine whether they can take your business into the new year? Here are some strategic questions businesses should focus on when assessing their software systems. What Worked Last Year? What Didn’t Work? Nearing the end of a planning period (month, quarter or year) is a good time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in the period coming to a close. Now is a good time to pause, consider what worked/what didn’t work and recalibrate for the period ahead. It’s your chance to learn from successes as well as those efforts that didn’t return the value you hoped to achieve. In the past year, did you accomplish what you set out to accomplish? What were the successes and the misses? Is the list of what worked last year smaller than the list of what didn’t work? Concentrate on areas where you can increase revenue or reduce expenses.

How Well Do Our Current Systems Support Our Processes? Try following a sales order from the beginning all the way through shipping and customer invoicing. As you analyze each step in the process, ask yourself how easy is it to do business with your company. Your customers are looking for ways to place orders any time of the day or week, so providing eCommerce capabilities is crucial for businesses today. If your current system doesn’t provide eCommerce capabilities, it may be difficult for your business to grow into the future. Next, take a look at your purchasing process. As you analyze each step in the process, ask yourself “am I getting the best price and the best performance out of my vendors?” Keep in mind that your vendors are also looking for ways to service your needs more effectively.


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If you can offer them insight into your forecasts, they can be better prepared to meet your demand. If your current system doesn’t provide a Vendor Portal where you can collaborate with them online, it may be time to move to a more modern system. For manufacturing and distribution companies, inventory control is critical. How fast can you get an order out the door? Does your current system include RFID or bar code capabilities? The system should instruct your warehouse employees how to shelve received items and what location to pick from for shipping orders. Make sure your bins are clearly marked with bar code labels, and make sure your system can perform an ABC analysis for configuring your warehouse for maximum efficiency. Take this approach for each process and you’ll quickly identify which parts of your current system work well and what parts need updating.

What Are Our Future Organizational Goals? While this can be an expansive question, it’s a good plan to again concentrate on what will increase revenue or decrease expenses. Put together a comprehensive list of both needs and wants, and try to prioritize them in order of importance. By looking at the big picture and well into the future, you can better assess if your current system will provide the roadmap to achieve your goals. If growing into international markets is a goal, you may need a multilingual system with a network of international partners that can assist with local tax issues.

If your growth strategy includes acquisitions, how easily can you add or merge entities into your current system? If speed to market is a goal, how fast can you bring a new product to market will be critical for your success. If your current system is difficult to adapt new product lines, now is the time to replace it with a modern, flexible system.

Who Are Our Stakeholders? As you outline your needs and wants, also identify which internal stakeholders are involved so you can pinpoint the requirements that cross departments or functional areas. It’s important to think broadly about your new initiatives and to remember that business software doesn’t just impact your IT team – the opportunity to cascade your company’s goals into your IT initiatives is almost endless! If the company goal is to increase revenue, which functional areas are in a position to advance that goal? Sales is an obvious answer, but also look at Marketing – does your Marketing team have the right tools to execute lead generation campaigns or quantify ROI for those campaigns? Another key area to examine is the hand-off between Marketing and Sales to determine whether the meaty, qualified leads that Marketing generates are being used to maximum effectiveness by your Sales team. Take a similar approach when digging into things that can help advance your other company goals – if the goal is to reduce costs/improve margins, how much visibility does your executive team have into company metrics? If you’re planning a future push to retain or attract high-performance employees, what systems do you have in place to track HR-related metrics like manager performance, team turnover, etc.? Continued on next page

What About Infrastructure? Don’t just look for a new tool to help you do what you’ve always done. Now is the time to think about whether the types of tools you’ve always used will continue to support your planned future growth. If you haven’t moved to a cloud based system (or at least a hosted solution) your current infrastructure may not support the additional stresses that growth requires. If you were to start the company today, you probably wouldn’t invest in IT hardware. If you decide your current system will take you into next year and beyond but it’s deployed on your servers in your office, consider moving to a cloud hosting solution and eliminating your internal IT hardware expenses. The cloud hosting provider will give you a backup and disaster recovery plan that far exceeds what you could afford to do internally. As you grow, you can find another use for the office space it’s taking up.

How Do We Estimate the Benefits of Change? After you’ve assessed your strengths, weaknesses, goals and players, it’s time to take a strategic look at how business software can move your company forward. The projects you propose and the initiatives you introduce should align with your organizational goals, the finite financial budget and staff resources (i.e. time and skill set) available, and stakeholder buy-in. Estimated ROI is a powerful device to identify where company resources should be invested, secure stakeholder commitment and to “right size” budget and resources. While calculating specific ROI can be a challenge, in this context, ROI is more directional than precise. Engage the department leaders to estimate the incremental revenue they can achieve or cost savings they can realize. Can process improvements enable staff to spend more of their time on other/more beneficial activities, or shift resources to another initiative?

As well as you are able, try to estimate the size of savings. Is it more or less than $10,000 per fiscal period? $50,000 per period? Can a team reduce time spent on an activity by 10 hours per week? If so, that returns 520 hours per year or. 25 of a full-time employee (FTE) back to the company. Re-assigning that .25 FTE to other activities yields means more work can be done with the same resources. Also, estimate the opportunity to increase revenue. If more effective marketing yields 10 new leads per week and the company can convert 10% of leads turn into a sale, you have 52 new sales per year. What is that sale worth? $500? $10,000? 52 new sales x $10,000 each = $520,000 per year incremental revenue!

What Should We Recalibrate Going Forward? As you pinpoint your goals and the departmental players, a business software specialist can help you evaluate which software tools can advance your goals and provide the best ROI for your business. When we talk about business software, we’re no longer just talking about ERP systems – modern business software solutions include a host of other products, including CRM, Marketing Automation, HCM/HRMS, payment solutions, etc. Working with a software consultant, like Blytheco, can help you design your future systems roadmap to make sure your technology is prepared to support your goals. Blytheco begins our solution design process with comprehensive business discovery. We take a deep-dive approach to learning about your business, “peeling the onion” to uncover not just your immediate needs but also your deeper requirements. Our thorough scoping process ensures that our project plans are comprehensive and mitigates the risk of discovering additional requirements mid-implementation (when they could necessitate change orders and delay go-live).

About the Authors Vicki Fox David, Strategic Solutions Manager at Blytheco, is an energetic, strategic thinker and problem solver with over 10 years experience in tech-sector roles including product management, product marketing, business strategy and business development. Connect with her at or Eileen Licerio, Business Solutions Manager at Blytheco, provides strategic and operational best practices to manufacturing, distribution, health care, and professional service industries paired with great software. Connect with her at or Patrice Ruane, MFA, has 10 years of experience in business writing and proposal development. As Blytheco’s Proposal Analyst, she manages client-facing documentation and deliverables for their outside sales team. Connect with her at


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Increase 2018 profitability with the right mix of machines and people

People fear that warehouse automation tools will take their jobs, but those concerns are based on many widespread myths. It’s true; manufacturing automation can create more product, faster than people, but it also creates more jobs! Manufacturing profitability is about finding the right mix of machines and individuals. Fact: Automation Creates Opportunity The McKinsey Global Institute completed an exhaustive, 148-page study of workplace automation in January of 2017, which showed only 5% of job tasks would be replaced by automation. Even so, the myth that machines will replace jobs is still prevalent. It’s time to banish this myth. The Internet and technology have opened entirely new markets for globalization and have expanded customer accessibility and business exposure at rates we never thought possible. Why? Because using computers is faster and cheaper than the way we used to do business. Computers, however, are only part of the solution. We can complete more transactions and run more reports, but sales potential is still limited by inventory counts. In other words: computers can sell product all day, but if there’s nothing left to sell, your customers won’t pay you. Automation helps solve this part of the problem because it helps companies keep up with consumer demand by creating more product – faster. And more sales naturally lead to more jobs. If manufacturing now has access to new markets and opportunities, and if automation helps meet increased customer demand… why are there job losses in the industry?


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INDUSTRYNEWS Fact: As a Whole, Manufacturing Is Losing Money Unfortunately, although consumer demand is high for products, sales are not keeping pace. One of the reasons that pundits keep saying automation is stealing our jobs is because of skewed statistics. These inaccurate statistics are perpetuating this myth and adding to the fear that automation is taking jobs. The skewed numbers: Since 2000, manufacturing employment rates have dropped 30%, but manufacturing output has increased sharply. How can manufacturers produce far more with fewer people? We all assume the answer is due to automation. The real numbers: In fact, since 2000, manufacturing employment rates have indeed dropped by 30%, but manufacturing output is currently 5% lower than preRecession numbers. Low production and weak sales lead to low employment rates. The skewed numbers come from the extreme output of the computer industry, including semiconductors. Computers only comprise 13% of the total manufacturing sector, and their output is measured in a bizarre way: their “output” is measured on computing performance. In essence, a computer that’s faster than last year’s model can technically do the job of last year’s computer, plus some. In the computer industry, “output” is calculated based on perceived value of each comparable unit, not on a number of units produced or sold. Since it doesn’t take any more or less time for a worker in a computer factory to manufacture this year’s faster computer – the parts are still the same, but the chips are faster – the industry’s numbers are flawed. If we measure the output of the computer industry based on units produced, their production has actually dropped 7% since 2001. Yet in that same period, we’ve all bought far more computers. However, they are coming from other countries. The real problem is the strength of the dollar and the export cost of our products, versus the cost of imported goods. Since imports are usually cheaper than domestic products, manufacturers need to do something else to remain competitive.

Fact: Automation May Create Jobs If our production levels have gone down and our spending habits favor inexpensive imports, we have two options we can leverage to price American-made goods competitively for consumers:

Option #1 is like the proposed border adjustment tax, which would impose additional taxes on imports. This tax may increase the number of plants, sales, and jobs in America by penalizing companies that manufacture overseas, but would also increase our costs here in the States. Experts say that unless our dollar increases in value by 20% (a highly unlikely scenario), we, as consumers, would be stuck paying more for the things we buy because a border tax would raise import prices to the same rates as domestic prices. Option #2 can happen with automation. If we’re able to increase production to a faster pace, we can keep up with existing consumer demand and therefore enhance our profitability. Higher profitability leads to more opened plants, which leads to more jobs, and to a better output. It’s a good cycle. It’s true that automation empowers companies to spend less on labor to complete highly detailed, exhausting, or tedious work. Machines are purchased once, and, if you keep them in good condition, they’ll keep performing tasks for years. But humans can reprogram machines and design new devices to carry out different functions. Sure, those are jobs for programmers and designers, but that’s job opportunity. We’ll also need people to oversee and fix the machines, to sell and manufacture the devices, and to think for the machines. And don’t forget that machines will help us create more products, which increases jobs in the retail industry. As humans, we have the ability to envision new possibilities, imagine new futures, and create new businesses – and automation tools can help us make our dreams a reality.

The real fact: Machines simply give us the tools to succeed in the modern world. If you’d like to see the real numbers behind manufacturing automation ROI in companies and industries like yours, Scanco can help. Learn more about how manufacturing automation can increase your competitive edge at Since 1989, Scanco has been providing tools and solutions that help manufacturers and distributors do their jobs better and faster, so they can increase their sales and grow their businesses.

1. Raise the prices on imported goods so the local product is priced similarly to foreign-made products. 2. Lower product prices to compete with the prices of imports.



HR Concerns by Ana Ribeiro

As the end of the year gets closer, here is a reminder of some common HR “to-dos� for the last quarter. Although there may be other activities conducted by your business that are not referenced here, this will ensure the most general tasks are completed on time.

General HR Housekeeping (October) DDReview HR 2017 expenses and 2018 budget for planning and resource allocation

DDPerform or plan annual performance reviews (policy)

DDFinalize holiday party, year-end outreach drives, and associated employee events

DDPlan any first quarter sales kickoff meetings DDReview vendor contracts and SLAs, and set up meetings for renewal discussions

DDClean and organize personal workspaces DDPrepare EEOC reporting for annual filing (if required)


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DDMove terminated personnel files to storage DDUpdate employee handbook with any business or compliance additions or changes to your policies

DDCreate and distribute holiday or company closings calendar for 2018

DDConduct or schedule safety training, emergency evacuations, and emergency preparedness

DDCreate and update succession plans, establish the 2018 open requisitions working list, and update other hiring references


Hiring DDDetermine cost to hire (based on 2017 staffing plan) and revenue per FTE, and set 2018 benchmarks for hiring managers

DDReview and rate effectiveness of 2017 recruiting, onboarding and other processes associated with staffing and make updates (remember to communicate changes in process to managers)

DDBuild a 2018 staffing plan and include a requisition process based on cost to hire and revenue per FTD benchmarks

DDObtain approval of the hiring plan, communicate and meet with hiring managers on this process

DDCreate short Brand messages for your external postings that are current and relevant (include any 2017 accomplishments or milestones)

DDUpdate any changes to the job application and other date sensitive onboarding forms (W-4 and I-9 for example)

DDSchedule meetings with department heads to check staffing needs for 2018 (by no later than October to allow time for budget adjustments)

Benefits DDWork with your benefits broker to prepare for ACA compliance responsibilities o Prepare for filing Forms 1094-C and1095-C to the IRS o Prepare to distribute required notices to employees o Run year-end reports to prepare for annual 5500 audits

DDExamine benefits package, including: o Competitiveness in the labor market o Open enrollment opportunities to update benefits package (if needed for competitiveness) o Update employee pre-tax contribution to FSA and HSA to meet any increases

DDAudit carrier bills, including COBRA, and ensure participant premiums are accurate o Create the 2018 process

DDVerify employee dependent coverage (age of children /covered dependents to meet eligibility)

DDInform employees of any block out dates for PTO during the holiday season (if applicable)

DDEnsure proper end-of-year PTO utilization and carryover in the system (or pay employees out for PTO, depending on your policy) Continued on next page


Learning & Development DDEvaluate 2017 L&D plan and ensure appropriate entries to the HRIS system and Performance Module system have been completed

DDPrepare the 2018 L&D plan and distribute to managers

DDSchedule any required training with employees DDAdd alerts and system reminders to keep L&D on schedule

Payroll DDSend out requests to employees for any address changes to ensure proper delivery of W2 forms

DDSchedule holiday bonuses or excess PTO payouts DDAudit PTO carry over in the system DDPrepare for the first payroll run of the new year (audit tax tables and benefit deductions prior to the first payroll run of 2018)

DDConfirm new year payroll schedule and socialize it with employees

DDResearch local, state, city, or federal rate changes

DDRun adjustment payroll to clean up any pending corrections prior to W2 preparation

DDOrder W-2s (and 1099s if applicable) DDReview employee wage, tax, and withholding information (send out the 2018 W-4) and ensure all elections have been added to system prior to the first payroll of 2018

and ensure you have added system codes and accumulators for any new tax requirements

Compliance DDEnsure employee classification compliance audits are completed

DDAudit personnel files for compliance (incomplete DDDistribute annual notices to employees for


DDVerify that labor law posters are current in all locations and are properly posted, or order new posters (if needed)

DDUpdate OSHA logs and ensure current Workers’ Compensation, safety and OSHA compliance posters are up to date

ACA, ERISA, etc.

DDEnsure that 2017 anti-harassment training is completed (and on the calendar for 2018)

DDUpdate job descriptions for any ADA or compliance changes

About the Author


Ana Ribeiro has built her career as a broad based generalist in Human Resources and Shared Services business operations, and has worked in both multi-national and domestic business settings. She has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey and a Master’s Degree in International Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. In addition, she has completed Human Resources management and strategy training through Cornell University’s School of Labor Relations, and holds active SPHR and GPHR certifications from the Human Resources Certification Institute.


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How to Build a


Plan by Rhys Metler


our sales compensation plan might be failing. Learn how to build a better plan that meets your needs and your sales team’s needs.

A well thought-out and competitive sales compensation plan will motivate your sales reps and reward them for their hard work. This strategy will also allow you to reap the rewards of their higher levels of performance. Unfortunately, many companies have ill-defined, inappropriate, or confusing sales compensation structures that don’t work. Creating a great sales compensation plan is easier said than done and is quite a challenging task. If your current sales compensation plan isn’t working, it’s time to rework it. Here’s how.


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HUMANRESOURCES Know Your Options and Select the Right Mix Sales compensation is far more complicated than any other function in an organization. There are many different types of plans to consider. While your IT team, finance division, and marketing department all likely just receive a straight salary, your sales team’s compensation plan might be developed using four different components: salary, commission, bonuses, and sales incentives. The best sales compensation plans typically include all four of these elements, although it isn’t necessary. But finding the right mix of the components will be the most critical aspect of your plan.

Offering a Base Salary If you opt to offer your sales people a base salary, you’ll want this number to be low enough to allow room for motivation and incentives, but high enough to support your sales people in meeting their financial obligations. Generally, this will fall between 15 and 40 percent. The base salary will be higher for sales people who perform many non-selling tasks and do not have as many opportunities to bring in revenue.

Considering Straight Commission Some organizations, however, choose to create a sales compensation plan based on straight commission, which has its pros and cons. The thinking here is that the structure will force sales people to work as hard as they can to earn as much as they can, but many job seekers shy away from such a structure, and it could limit your candidate pool for new hires. Additionally, this type of plan isn’t effective if you have a long sales cycle or lengthy training and onboarding process. The insurance and brokerage industries, in particular, have seen success with the straight commission structure, but

for some other industries, this arrangement won’t work. For most industries, base salary should be offered with a commission as part of the broader sales compensation plan, with commission making up about 64 to 85 percent of total compensation.

Adding a Bonus Structure Any sales compensation plan you build should leave room to add a bonus structure to add incentive to reach new levels. Generally, a bonus would be paid at the end of the year if sales goals or other specific, measurable goals have been met or exceeded. You’ll want your bonuses to be significant enough to motivate reps to achieve their targets.

Using Non-Monetary Sales Incentives Most of the best compensation plans for sales also include non-monetary incentives, such as a trip, a gift, or tickets to a show. These types of incentives are often associated with sales contests, and they can give your sales people the extra boost they need during a slump or your toughest months. These incentives should be fun and incentivize enough to motivate sales people, or they won’t be worth offering. A $10 gift card, for example, probably won’t cut it.

Keep It Simple An excellent compensation plan will be simple and straightforward. The calculations will be easy for your sales people to do on their own. And the program will be easy to administer. You’ll want to avoid confusing and complicated plans that your sales people won’t be able to follow. If they can’t figure out what targets they need to meet at each stage of the process and how close they are to achieving their goals, the plan won’t motivate them into action. The simpler the plan, the more effective it will be.

About the Author Rhys is Director, Sales, of SalesForce Search. He specializes in prospecting new business relationships, client retention and renewals, and building top performing Sales teams in even the most challenging environments. Rhys started his Sales career at the age of 12, canvassing door-to-door for a National Newspaper and has never looked back. After completing his BComm from Ryerson, he joined one of the largest and most successful event management organizations in the world. Rhys worked his way up from an entry level Sales Representative to a top performing Senior Sales Manager, eventually becoming the Director of Recruitment for North America prior to joining SalesForce Search. Rhys is a tenacious, top performing senior sales and recruitment professional with 13+ years of experience that spans a variety of industry verticals including Technology, Software, Advertising, Finance, Healthcare, Legal, Retail, and Industrial. Blog Article:





When the Department of Labor (DOL) published its first draft of the “Final Rule� regulations in 2015, defining the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) white collar exemptions (for positions including executives, administrators, professionals, outside sales and IT employees) and announcing an increase in the minimum weekly salary for these exemptions from $455 to $913, employers and labor associates expressed outrage about its effect on businesses. For many employers, this was a substantial increase to their labor costs and for some employees the change to their exemption could result in loss of benefits, professional status and advancement. Many salaried managers would now have to clock in and out, and some feared this change would diminish their professional options within the organization.


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Indeed, the Final Rule affected about four million workers nationwide. Some argued that the added burden would shortchange the employer’s ability to compete in hiring, benefits and compensation. This would have a negative ripple effect on the US economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned of the negative consequences of the new overtime rules, including that newly eligible workers could lose out on privileges that are associated with being a salary manager that is exempt from the overtime. Many reclassified employees will lose benefits, flexibility, status and opportunities for advancement. This change is another example of the administration being completely divorced from reality and adding more burdens to employers and expecting them to just absorb the impact.” (Jeanne Sahadi, 2015)

Under the original version of the Final Rule, employers were required to review exempt employees earning less than $913 per week on a salary basis. Job description would be audited, based on the specific white collar test exemptions. If the test indicated the job met “exempt” classification requirements, then the minimum salary increase applied (minimum salary of $913 per week or $47,476 annually). If on the other hand the job was reclassified as “non-exempt” based on the test, the employer would not be required to increase compensation and instead must transition the employee to an hourly schedule, tracking work hours for overtime compensation purposes (for hours worked during the work week in excess of 40). The employer was given the option to pay on an hourly basis, with applicable overtime rules, or pay on a salaried basis, overtime applicable or pay on a salary basis at the increased rate of $913. The Final Rule also included provisions for inflation, meaning the $913 salary amount would increase every three years beginning in 2020 based on inflation outcomes. There was also an exemption for “highly compensated employees” who earned $100,000 per year, although this was less of a concern as it applied to fewer individuals. The finalized “New Rule,” which was announced in March 2016 and was to take effect on December 1st, 2016, gave US employers little time to manage the changes. But the New Rule was challenged almost immediately and although the DOL appealed the challenge, the full rollout was postponed. In August 2017 however, the DOL published a Request for Information (RFI) asking the public to weigh in on this issue, to come up with a revised version of the Final Rule. Through this RFI process the DOL is soliciting input directly from the public and no longer planning to argue the matter in the courts. According to preliminary information, it is expected that the new version of the rule will not demand as high an increase to the minimum salary threshold, but will still maintain annual increases for inflation. Although this is a better outcome for employers, the DOL will likely still impose changes to the white collar exemption and significantly increase its oversight of compliance. Continued on next page




1. It is important to maintain clear and accurate job descriptions. Even more important is that the job description be a true representation of the actual job (accurate job duties) and that exemption tests be applied consistently to every job. 2. Identify employees who may be reclassified (currently making $455 per week), and consider the hypothetical monetary effects. Remember to include costs of waiting time, meal and rest periods, training time, travel time, and any other compensable activities. 3. Based on current work schedules of these borderline employees, determine the number of potential overtime hours and potential overtime costs to your business. 4. This is a great opportunity to identify how much time exempt employees are spending on non-exempt tasks. Reassigning some of these task to their subordinates, will help keep overtime pay at lower rates. 5. Another step in ensuring readiness is to maintain current and accurate data in your employment database (HRIS). This will make any changes easier to complete and compliant. Now is the time to properly classify your employees or make any needed corrections. 6. Conduct an HR review for potential organizational changes that may be required if status changes must take place. For example, if some exempt and nonexempt employees have similar titles this could be streamlined now. If benefit policies disqualify individuals based on classification this is a good time to analyze the impact.

8. Coach senior managers on a unified communication to affected employees on how and why changes are going to be implemented. The key message to employees should be that these changes will not negatively impact their pay and are required by law. Prevent potential negative employee morale due to reclassification of managers to non-exempt status and time tracking responsibilities. 9. HR should prepare a timeline, rollout plan and training schedules to ensure everyone in the organization has the information to operate within the new guidelines, on the effective date. 10. HR should also be prepared to own this compliance. Have a plan for following-up with employees and monitoring their compliance with the new policies. Take this as an opportunity to gain control of the process and manage outcomes in advance to prevent issues later. 11. Once your HRIS information is accurate, schedule an annual audit to ensure you are in good shape justifying exemption changes due to promotions, lateral moves, or new hires. 12. Most importantly don’t hesitate to seek consultative help to ensure compliance and to help you maneuver through the required compliance with DOL regulations and classification changes. The DOL will monitor that employers comply, and this could have potential financial consequences, including fines if you are found to be in violation or misclassification. The DOL will likely have strong enforcement mechanisms once this rule is finalized, as it did in the 2016.

7. Check time tracking options to ensure you have the right infrastructure for the additional employees who will now be required to use it. Accurate data collection will be an essential part of complying with FLSA overtime regulations.

About the Author Ana Ribeiro has built her career as a broad based generalist in Human Resources and Shared Services business operations, and has worked in both multi-national and domestic business settings. She has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey and a Master’s Degree in International Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. In addition, she has completed Human Resources management and strategy training through Cornell University’s School of Labor Relations, and holds active SPHR and GPHR certifications from the Human Resources Certification Institute. Citation Jeanne Sahadi. (2015). Businesses rail against Obama’s overtime rule change. New York: CNNMoney.


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