Results from Vistage Survey of Small Business CEOs

I have had the pleasure of being a Vistage member for over 10 years now. What a great organization it has been for me both personally and professionally.

Each year, Vistage surveys small to medium-sized business owners to find out their projections for the coming year, what concerns they may have, and how they are approaching important decisions for their organizations. The link below will take you to this year’s survey results:

This survey is incredibly interesting as it goes over multiple topics from the economy to upcoming HR concerns. It is also amazing when you realize that most of the things that you are thinking and feeling about your own company concern other CEOs as well.

These questions really caught my eye because of my time in the HR world:

Question 8 – Rate the importance of the following in relation to your talent management challenges.

Result #1 - Employee retention was ranked the most important challenge with 70% of the CEOs selecting that factor as a major concern.

Our solution: Our HR service offering, tHRiving, can come in and assess where you might have gaps in your retention strategy, and we work with you to fix those gaps.

Result #2 - Attracting Qualified Talent was listed by 67% of the CEOs as a major concern.

Our solution: Innovative Outsourcing’s customized recruiting process. 80% of the current talent pool is not looking for a job. It takes a recruiter like us to know where they are and to actively RECRUIT them to your company. We’ll also work with you to create your story – the “why would someone want to work for your company”. This will help you differentiate yourself from other companies and make you a coveted employer.

Question 10 – If retaining existing talent has become more difficult, what are you doing in response?

Result #1 - Improving Company Culture was listed by 68% of CEOs as a desired strategy

Our solution: We can perform a tHRiving Company Culture Audit where we will let you know what is working and what is not within your current organization. The results of this audit can be the important baseline from which you can build a better culture and climate.

Question 12 – Which do you use to measure employee engagement?

Result #1 - One to One meetings was listed by 79% of CEOS as the best way to measure employee engagement.

Our solution: Another HR tHRiving service offering is our One-on-One Employee Meetings. We confidentially conduct one-on-one meetings with 10-15 of your employees. By the end of a short two-day period, you have a clear picture of your current level of employee engagement. We have been doing these for 10 years with HR professionals with over 30 years of experience.

IO can come alongside you in these areas and help relieve some of the struggles you’re experiencing. Reach out to me if you’d like to learn more.

Provide Training and Development

feedback banner (3).png

"47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason" -- Hays.com

Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?

A couple of weeks ago, we started a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture. 
#1 – Providing Feedback
If you missed it, check out the link HERE

#2 – Providing a Flexible Work Environment
If you missed it, check out the link HERE

#3 – Provide “Better-Than-Market” Total Compensation 
If you missed it, check out the link HERE

#4 – Provide Training and Development 

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is NOT training them and having them stay.” –Henry Ford 

Employing a team of well-trained employees is crucial to the success of businesses, regardless of size. Large corporations often budget substantial dollars for this expense. But what about you as a small business owner without comparable financial resources to devote to training and development?

Good News! The inability to match the training budget of a larger company does NOT mean you don’t have any good options for developing a culture of learning. With a bit of resourcefulness and innovation, implementing cost effective training solutions is not as daunting a task as you may imagine.

You may be thinking, “I hear you, but my plate is already full juggling all that’s required to keep my business running efficiently. Is it REALLY important for me to devote time and resources to this?”

The answer  “YES! It is important!" Here are a few reasons why:

Employees want to feel that you are INVESTING in them – We know that employees who feel that their employer is helping them develop will tend to stay at that company longer. Employees who receive ongoing opportunities for development perceive that as a show of commitment and loyalty from the employer – so then they tend to commit longer and be “all in” as well.

  • Happier, more engaged staff – Happy employees create more positive experiences for customers, which impacts client retention, repeat business, and the bottom line.

  • Lower Turnover – An engaged work force that feels well trained and sees themselves as co-partners in the company’s success is more likely to stay long term, thus minimizing employee turnover and its associated costs.

  • Increased Productivity – Even resourceful employees willing to figure things out on their own perform less efficiently absent proper training. Employees with a strong grounding in the skills and knowledge essential to their job performance, execute more efficiently which can measurably increase productivity.

  • Uniformity and Consistency – If one of your aims is for customers to enjoy a uniform experience regardless of which employee services their needs, good training is an effective tool to ensure that all employees are on the same page.

Now that you know WHY training is important, let’s look at HOW it can be economically implemented.

  • Learn, then Teach – If your budget doesn’t accommodate the cost of having your entire team receive professional training on a topic, a prudent cost saving option is designating one effective communicator to learn a new skill or technique and then train their peers with the newly acquired knowledge.

  • Online Training – There are online training resources to address a variety of business learning needs ranging from the highly technical to soft skills. Options run the gamut from brief online tutorials to full blown video courses.

Links to a few good options are found below:

  • LinkedIn Learning

  • Leadership development and self awareness from Giant Worldwide

  • Creative Live

  • Udemy

  • Coursera

  • Industry Associations - As part of their member benefits, many trade groups and professional associations offer training and certification options via seminars, webinars, and online courses. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Project Management Institute are two of many examples. If there’s an association applicable to your industry, it could be an invaluable resource in this regard

  • Lunch and Learn Sessions – Coordinating “one-to-many” training over lunch is an excellent way to concurrently build team cohesion and train on a relevant work topic. It’s also an opportunity to share industry news or raise awareness about trends that impact the business.

As these examples illustrate, a workable, cost-effective employee training solution is readily attainable, regardless of an organization’s size.

Take some time this month to determine what training is needed for your different team members – even if you are swamped. Then ask one of your staff to investigate possible options and sources for those needs. I might even be able to help with some of your management or “soft skills” concerns. I lead sessions on Myers Briggs 16 Personalities, which is a tool that can help your employees better understand each other and work together more effectively. I have also done sessions on conflict resolution and conducting effective performance reviews. Whatever your staff’s needs, there are affordable options out there that could make a world of difference to your team.

Provide "Better-Than-Market" Total Compensation

feedback banner (2).png

"47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason" -- Hays.com

Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?

A couple of weeks ago, we started a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture. 
#1 – Providing Feedback
(If you missed it, check out the link HERE)

#2 – Providing a Flexible Work Environment
If you missed it, check out the link HERE

#3 – Provide “Better-Than-Market” Total Compensation   

Most people tend to think of compensation as something totally separate from company culture. However, compensation is one of the ways that you express how much you value your employees. And as you know, employees who feel valued look forward to coming into work, have higher morale and productivity, and stay longer. So it’s important to periodically take a fresh look at how you stand compared to the market related to total compensation.

Do you know what total compensation is? The elements are listed below.  We like to think of these as levers. Each are important, but if you are able to offer more compared to what is common in companies in your industry in one area, it will allow you to sometimes offer less in another. 

  1. Salary

  2. Bonuses

  3. Health Benefits

  4. 401K

  5. Vacation and Sick Pay (also now referred to as PTO - paid time off)

Let’s look at each of these individually.


In times of low unemployment as we are in right now, we suggest that you pay at least 10% over the market rate for all your positions, and up to 30% over market for positions that are “low talent availability – meaning those job candidates are HARD to find”.  For now, some of those candidates in Atlanta are experienced bookkeepers, controllers, paralegals, and sales people. For these positions, if you aren’t at 30% over market, you have a large chance of losing people even if you have an incredible culture.  Salary.com is a great place to start your research. If you want a professional analysis of the market rate for the jobs in your company, we can help you with that! 


As you know, bonuses, profit sharing, etc. are great ways to recognize employees for their work.  These can be a big motivator for employees to work harder and cut costs in order to increase profitability.  However, bonus opportunities need to be clearly defined and fairly implemented or they will become a de-motivator and greatly increase employee dissatisfaction.

When you’re working hard to build a certain culture within your company, bonus plans can be a great tool in helping to do that.  Tie in specific behaviors and work habits, etc. that you want to reward on top of results that you want achieved.  This shows your employees that you are serious about creating the culture you talk about and that you are wiling to put money against it to back it up.

Health Benefits

Only about 35% of today’s employees are covered by a spouse’s plan and don’t need health benefits. We know that offering benefits is expensive and can be very difficult for a small business to afford. But with the high cost of an individual getting his/her own plan, benefits comparisons are becoming a huge factor in how candidates evaluate different job opportunities. To make yourself an attractive employer, you may need to find an affordable plan, offer to cover the out of pocket costs for an individual to get their own, or at least offer a stipend toward those costs. 


Most employees feel that this is definitely a “nice to have” and not a necessity.  Note that if you offer a 401k or IRA, that DOES NOT replace the need to pay properly.


Here is where you, as a small business, can make up for not having the highest pay!  Offer more vacation.  Employees are valuing time off, flexible work options (like we talked about in the last post), etc. as much as pay during some seasons of life. Most companies are starting their professional employees at 3 weeks vacation now.  And clients that give 4-5 weeks a year report high work satisfaction and longer tenure.  Although there is an opportunity cost in giving more vacation, it may be more doable for you than offering higher salaries.

A CEO told me the other day that he felt that they had such an awesome culture that people didn’t care if he paid below market and didn’t offer benefits.  I’m concerned about this CEO’s strategy.  This could work for the short-term. But even people working in a great corporate culture need to pay their bills. As the difference between what you pay and what your competitors pay gets larger, your favorite employees might surprise you with a letter of resignation. Don’t let that happen. 

Why don’t you take the next 30 days to evaluate where you are as it relates to Total Comp and take a few steps towards confidence in this area?  I think it will be a great use of your time and perhaps even save your favorite employee. 

The Power of a Flexible Workplace

feedback banner (1).png

“47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason” — Hays.com

Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?

A couple of weeks ago, we started a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture. 
#1 – Providing Feedback
(If you missed it, check out the link HERE)

#2 – Providing a Flexible Work Environment
33% of employees would change jobs for one that allowed them to work WHERE they want at least part of the time.  Gallup Survey, It’s the Manager   

So, flexibility is KEY!  What does it mean to have a flexible work environment?  Two things…

  • Flexible Time – Time is the new bargaining chip. People are as interested in more free time as they are in money – especially our millenials! Do you offer a way for your team to work 7am-3pm or 9:30am – 5:30pm? Work 4 ten-hour days instead of 5 days per week? Just allowing this flexibility – and allowing them to shift it when their life changes (not every week – but once in a while) – will make you a valued and appreciated employer and put you ahead of almost every large company in town.

  • Flexible Location – While 100% virtual teams are very difficult, allowing team members to work from home 1-3 days per week has been proven to IMPROVE productivity. People will also actually stay in their jobs totally engaged for longer (and today this means something). From Gallup’s book, "It’s the Manager," “the highest engagement falls in a sweet spot of working remotely three to four days a week." Yes, it is important for managers to be trained on how to manage workers when they are remote, (this needs training and is not easy). It is also important to set expectations for employees and only allow this for employees that have proven to be trustworthy. But for great employees who have a good track record, this can be a win-win scenario. The company gets greater productivity and an engaged worker, and the employee gets to have a day or two without traffic – working in their pajamas with coffee.

Owners who think “I can’t trust my employees. They will be at the movies,” might need to realize that this new way to work is coming – whether you choose to adopt it or not! The old school mentality of requiring everyone to be onsite during the same hours will soon mean that your workplace is dated. “Currently, 60% of companies offer their employees telecommuting opportunities.”  2016 SHRM Benefits Survey.

And, if you choose to be Inflexible, you will have a hard time hiring and retaining top talent. You will be able to get employees, just probably not the BEST ones. Many large companies are still not embracing flexibility, so small employers can beat big employers in the race for great hires just by marketing their FLEXIBILITY!
Maybe you and your management team need to take 15 minutes in the next couple of weeks to determine how you could employ a more flexible work strategy. 

Shorthanded, but Reluctant to Hire?

Do you need help from an additional staff member but do not want to take a financial risk?  Reading this recent AJC article, it is understandable why small businesses are sitting on their needs for more staff, and choosing not to hire. 

“A hoped-for boom in small-company hiring never happened because owners haven't wanted to take on the added risk and expense of more staffers.”  

Has this happened at your company? We understand. We are a small business too! 

A great solution for you may be to hire ON THE INNOVATIVE OUTSOURCING PAYROLL. That is right – we can hire your extra set of hands, and we take on the risk. You just pay hourly for the hours worked. You get the help you need without the long-term risk.  Part time is where this works best, but full time might also be an option depending on the job description. 

For example: 

  • Controller - 10 hours/week

  • HR person - 8 hours/week

  • Bookkeeper - 25 hours/week

  • Executive Assistant to CEO - 20 hours a week

Do any of these sound like something you need?  If so, now is the time! Contact us to get started.

The Power of Feedback


“47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason” — Hays.com

When you read this statistic, does it scare you or make you feel confident about your company’s employees? Is it strange to you that corporate culture is the main reason for employees wanting to make a change? Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?
For the next few weeks, we are going to start a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture.  And don’t worry - by culture, I don’t mean ping pong tables and free snacks (although those aren’t bad).
#1- Providing Feedback
The first (and cheapest) strategy that helps to create a better culture is… PROVIDING FEEDBACK.  Professionals want to know that they are valued!  There are two very easy ways to do that. 

  1. Verbal Feedback – Are you taking the time each week to go up to your employees and let them know that you are thankful for something they have done? Your direct reports should hear a verbal thank you or praise at least once a month. And that should happen IN PERSON if possible. This is where walking around with coffee in the morning without an agenda is an incredible tool. Stopping by offices and cubes can make a world of difference to your employees. If you don’t have an office – a once a week check-in call just to say hello with no agenda is critical.

  2. Written Feedback – When was the last time you sent your direct reports a hand-written note to thank them for something that they exceeded expectations on? When did you write a note just letting them know that you know that they could choose anywhere to work and you are thankful that they chose your workplace? Have you done this EVER? Setting aside 15 minutes a week to encourage your employees is a great, no-cost way to radically change the culture in a really quick amount of time in your company. If your response to this suggestion is to tell me there is nothing great to say to them, then you probably should call us to help you find some new team members. Gratitude and encouragement FEED our employees – they want to feel appreciated and valued.

As you sit in your office thinking right now, “She’s wrong! I don’t have time for that”, consider this statistic: “69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.” – Socialcast  
Hmm. It looks like setting aside 15 minutes each week to show some appreciation is a good business decision and will not only help to reduce turnover, it will also likely impact your bottom line.

A Billionaire wants to mentor YOU!

Imagine this! You just received an invitation to meet weekly for coffee with one of the 100 wealthiest people in the world, a billionaire investor and philanthropist. He is taking a special interest in you, and he wants you to fully grasp all the important things he has learned in his 68 years of life and work.  He will mentor you by tracing his footsteps and missteps, his successes and his failures.  When your mentoring sessions are completed, you will be equipped to carry that spark as a blazing torch, enlightening your personal life and your business.

While it may not be an actual “talk-over-coffee,” Ray Dalio’s #1 New York Times bestseller Principles: Life & Work is the ONE must-read book this year, both for your business and your personal growth. Even if you are not a “book” person, there is just too much great stuff here to let this one slip by another day.

RAY DALIO is the founder and co-chairman of the best performing hedge fund in the world.  He’s made the list of the most influential people in the world by Time and Bloomberg Markets. Even if you have not a stiff of interest in hedge funds or investing, the stories he tells and the life principles he shares will keep you hanging on his every word.   

There are two overarching themes that ooze through the richness of Dalio’s wisdom.  

  • Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of work and life, so identify and use your principles as a measuring stick for all you do.
  • In applying these principles, be radically open-minded and radically transparent.  This will assure that you learn quickly, and that you don’t get hung up on what things “should” be like, but what is reality.

It is impossible to highlight the favorite parts of this book, but from a staffing perspective, let me jump right to Part III where Dalio hits the very heart of building a business based upon solid work principles.  Because there is just so much rich information, Dalio does us a tremendous service, and begins this section with a summary and table of these principles, indexed to the pages where each topic is covered in more depth.  He begins by saying, “An organization is a machine consisting of two major parts:  culture and people.” Then he proceeds to itemize how to get the culture right, and how to get the people right.  These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas, but instead he outlines specific steps.  For example, to support his principle that you need to create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes, but unacceptable not to learn from them, Dalio provides five specific steps any business leader can follow to assure this happens. 

After learning how to get the culture right, my favorite section explains how to get the people right:

  • Remember that the WHO is more important than the WHAT
  • Hire RIGHT, because the penalties for hiring wrong are huge (then he adds eight steps to assure you succeed in this)
  • Constantly train, test, evaluate, and sort people (and he gives you very specific strategies to accomplish this)

As a reader and a business leader, you are challenged to manage your business like someone operating a machine to achieve a goal. Just as a machine operator knows the components that produce the product, “…know what your people are like and what makes them tick, because your people are your most important resource.”

Ray Dalio admits that he is no different from you. "Whatever success I’ve had in life hasn’t been because of anything unique about me—it’s because of principles that I believe anyone can adopt."

So grab a cup of coffee, open the book, either hardcopy or audio, and enjoy a few moments each week as Ray Dalio fills you with the inspiration and wisdom that may make you think differently about your life and work.  Oh, and Part III of Dalio’s book — that’s our sweet spot, so Innovative Outsourcing would be honored to come along side you to put these principles in motion as you build your team at your company.

Listen to Ray Dalio’s Ted Talk 
Watch the Animated Series (30 minutes divided into 8 short episodes) 
Book Summary Outline 

Take it from the hens!

Business Culture:

  • It's what makes your best employees choose to stay with you or take another job offer.
  • It's what makes some companies 12% more profitable than their competitors
  • It's what creates a line outside your door “just in case you have an opening”.  
  • It's what good small businesses spend time maximizing
  • It's what small business owners usually have no idea how to create.  
  • It's what you are creating (good or bad) even if you don’t know you are - THIS SHOULD MOTIVATE YOU!

Take a look at this Ted talk.  The health of your business may depend on it. 

Do you know what your culture is in your company?  Is it positive, negative or neutral?  Are you sure?

IO considers culture incredibly important as we help you hire and retain your best team.  We have a new product that can help you determine what your culture is and the things that you must do to create the culture that you want.

If you are interested, please contact Matt Filer, mfiler@innovative-outsourcing.com, 404-259-6449.

Image Credit: http://www.wildhenfarm.com.au/

Book Buzz: Killing Marketing

You’ve grown a successful business based upon sound marketing principles. So what if you came to realize that all you know about marketing could actually be holding you back? Marketing is on the brink of change, and those businesses that can successfully pivot their marketing strategy now will reap the rewards, as those businesses less progressive scramble to play catch-up.

Killing Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, provides a new and shocking perspective that could change how you market your business. Through the insights of these authors, you may consider how actually “killing marketing” as we know it could be the start of a whole new way you grow your business. These two authors are the world’s top marketing experts of our age, and they begin this book with an alarming realization. Over the past two decades, we have seen a dramatic shift in both B2B and B2C buying and brand loyalty, yet the way we market has remained the same. 

Book Buzz: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What if you took a “crazy idea” and made it one of the most successful brands the world has ever known? What if you had no idea how to do something but surrounded yourself with the right people to reach that dream? This is what Phil Knight did as he took a love for running shoes and created one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In his autobiography Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight weaves an inspiring tale of what began as a “crazy idea” for a class at Stanford and developed into a worldwide apparel bonanza. This compelling story of a young man with a passion to change the status quo and do what he loves is simply inspiring. In this book, Knight weaves his journey of how he turned a $50 loan from his father into a company with annual sales topping $30 billion. The reader is inspired to learn how Knight achieved the improbable, building a wildly successful company from scratch out of his parents’ garage in Portland, Oregon.

The three essential themes Knight outlines in this book can serve as guideposts and inspiration to all types of business leaders: