Resources

The University of Michigan is Open for Business

By Daryl Weinert (from the Small Business Association of Michigan’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

Recently, economists from the University of Michigan gave us all a rare piece of good news – Michigan will see positive job growth in 2011 for the first time in over a decade. At the same time, they asserted that challenges remain. One critical challenge is how to connect the state’s universities to the needs of the business community. At the University of Michigan, we’ve created The Business Engagement Center (BEC) – a new mechanism to help companies find solutions to real-world business challenges. 

Essentially, the BEC serves as a “matchmaker,” helping companies navigate the complex structure of the university to find resources for their business. One resource is student projects. When Adaptive Materials – an Ann Arbor-based fuel cell manufacturer – needed help with defining a new commercial market strategy for its fuel cell systems, the BEC matched the company to the Ross School of Business’s Multidisciplinary Action Program. This seven-week program pairs first year MBA students with companies seeking solutions to a variety of business challenges. The team was able to conduct research on the market, compile a list of customer contacts, and assemble a pitch for use in future sales campaigns. Additionally, the team delivered the tools to help company executives evaluate and prioritize new inquiries for other uses for their products.

Another critical resource is talent. Recently, the BEC helped North American Bancard – a Troy-based credit card payment solutions provider- sponsor a ‘Hackathon’ – a 48-hour mobile device application creation contest. Through their sponsorship, the company was able to increase their visibility specifically to a targeted group of students and establish a pipeline program for students to participate in internships and independent study courses. The university has also experimented with several small company programs building on its research strength. EcoMotors, an Allen Park-based developer of clean, efficient and lightweight propulsion systems, participated in the university’s Small Company Innovation Program. This cost-sharing research collaboration allows companies to leverage U-M research expertise by partnering to tackle relevant technical challenges (the university provides matching funds of up to $30,000). The BEC also helps to connect companies with university collaborators in pursuing federal or state research grants such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding.

The university has also launched a small company career fair to expose students to job opportunities at smaller, high growth companies within the state of Michigan. Known as the MPowered Career Fair, nearly 100 organizations attended in 2010. Companies that attend the career fair can also apply for the Small Company Internship Program, which offers university cost sharing to hire students for a 12 week summer internship.

The University of Michigan has never before been so ready for collaboration. With programs designed to unlock the entrepreneurial aspirations of our students, with our Technology Transfer office spinning out companies and commercializing ideas at an increasing pace, and with new interfaces like the Business Engagement Center, U-M is open for business as never before. The BEC is designed to help companies find talent, explore research partnerships, educate professional staff, identify technologies, engage with students, and consult with faculty. Make a date with the Business Engagement Center: www.bec.umich.edu.

Daryl Weinert is Executive Director of the University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center.

State of UnEmployment! Better Think About Recruiting – Even if You Aren’t Hiring Now!

By Julie Mann, MSIR, SPHR, CCP

While the news focus is on the state of unemployment in Michigan, the state of employment has become a topic of the past. But yet, we know that history repeats itself and that the positive signs of things to come are becoming visible; the tide in Michigan is turning. As this tide turns, while we need to keep a watchful eye on the unemployment rate, critical to business success will be our focus on the state of employment.

Human Capital remains the number one asset in organizations and is a key to success and growth. We need to retain our talent, know how to attract new talent and know how to stay ahead of the talent curve. So, how? Do we simply just try to network more? If our business isn’t hiring right now, do we care? If not hiring, the state of employment doesn’t matter to my business, right? Wrong.

I recently asked a client, “Are you hiring?” They said, “No.” I then asked, “Are you recruiting?” After the client gave me one of those ‘didn’t you hear me’ looks, he responded, “I just said no. What’s your point?” Ah-hah…that’s the conversation!! Building your virtual bench and always recruiting becomes paramount to success. Let’s examine…

According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, there are:
  • 120,208,320 people employed or seeking work
  • 77,555,280 are employed but open or seeking a new job
  • 39,952,72 are employed and not open to a new job

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average lifetime number of employers for a worker has risen from:
  • 4 in the 1960’s to
  • 10.8 in 2006 and
  • 14 is the Gen X prediction

What does this mean to your business? It means that two thirds or 53 percent of employed adults are open to a new job or actively looking for a new job!

In today’s state of employment, we need to “Dig our well before we’re thirsty.” Even if not hiring, we need to constantly be recruiting for the best talent in the marketplace. And with 53 percent of people open to a new job, if they are an “A Player,” then other companies know who they are too and may just be talking to or recruiting them before you.

Therefore, keeping an eye open for talent isn’t something that we should just passively continue to “try” to do; we must actively pursue building our virtual bench. Let’s face it, if you’re waiting until you have a hiring need to try to identify talent, the task becomes that much more challenging. We need to always recruit and keep an eye open for people who you’d like to work with and be talking to them regularly about your business. Even if you can’t/won’t hire them immediately, A Players know A Players and when you are ready to hire, A Players can also recommend A Players and you now have people you think highly of who know about your business. Is this networking? Sure it is, but it is networking with a distinct purpose and not just something we ‘try’ to fit into our “To Do List.”

As the state of employment becomes more robust, networking for talent, virtual bench building, isn’t something successful businesses will just ‘try’ to do. When the outcome is important, we leave “TRY” out of the equation. We don’t “try” to love our kids, right? So, the next time you’re about to say that you’ll “try to do” something, reconsider. If the outcome of the activity is important, like hiring the right people, don’t just try. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Your business will distinctly benefit from it.

Julie Mann is the CEO & President of both The Rock Star Factory and JMann Consulting Group. The Rock Star Factory is a professional placement firm specializing in matching companies with rock star quality employees, while JMann Consulting Group provides on-call HR Manager services for small & medium sized businesses. Julie can be contacted at 51

Small Business Association of Michigan Names Daniel Mahoney as New Vice President for Membership and Development

Dan MahoneyThe Small Business Association of Michigan announced that Daniel Mahoney has been named the association’s Vice President for Membership and Development. Mahoney will be responsible for the Small Business Association of Michigan’s membership growth and political/corporate development.

Before joining the staff of the Small Business Association of Michigan, Mahoney held senior fundraising positions with former House Speaker Andy Dillon and the Michigan House Democratic Caucus.

“I’m delighted to have someone with Dan’s development experience and expertise join our staff to direct our aggressive growth strategy,” says Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “He brings a strong cause-oriented background that will help propel our mission of focusing the power of small business.”

Cardiac emergencies can happen anywhere to anyone. Is your workplace prepared?

If someone collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest in your workplace today, would you know what to do? Would your employees know how to increase a co-worker’s chance of survival? With each minute of elapsed time before defibrillation, the chances of survival diminish by approximately 10 percent.

The fact is, employers are required by OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.151 to have a person or persons adequately trained to render first aid for worksites that are not in or near proximity to an infirmary, clinic, or hospital.

Thankfully, The Red Cross has an Alliance with OSHA signed in 2005 to work together to help employers train employees. The Red Cross is the leading provider of Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training and services. For the cost of a laptop computer, a lifesaving AED could be installed at any facility. Businesses with AEDs and people trained to use them save lives when every second counts.

Customizable Training

The American Red Cross suggests that the first-aid program for a particular workplace be designed to reflect the known and anticipated risks of the specific work environment. Consultation with local emergency medical experts and providers of first-aid training is encouraged when developing a first-aid program. It’s also required that the program must comply with all applicable OSHA standards and regulations. In fact, OSHA requires certain employers to have CPR-trained rescuers on site.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a potential risk at all worksites, regardless of the type of work. Serious consideration should be given to establishing a workplace AED program. There are a few important factors to consider:
1. First-aid supplies must be available in adequate quantities and readily accessible.
2. First-aid training courses should include instruction in general and workplace hazard-specific knowledge and skills.
3. CPR training should incorporate AED training.
4. An AED should be available at the worksite.
5. First-aid training should be repeated periodically to maintain and update knowledge and skills.
6. Management commitment and worker involvement is vital in developing a strong workplace safety program.

You can schedule an authorized OSHA instructor to come to your workplace or hold the OSHA 10 or 30 course at your local chapter of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross can customize the OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 courses to meet your occupational needs, while covering all the required topics. The OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 courses have mandatory topics that will be covered in addition to elective course topics as needed or requested by the employer.

Whether you need to train two employees or 1000 employees, the Red Cross can help by providing quality safety training when and where you need it. Flexible service delivery methods will help you meet OSHA Guidelines and prepare your employees to save lives. For more information contact your local American Red Cross Chapter, www.redcross.org/where.

The author, Alison Bono,  is the American Red Cross Mid-Michigan Chapter Regional Director of Communications and Marketing. She can be contacted at abono@midmichiganredcross.org.

Reaction to Gov. Snyder’s Jan. 19 state of the state address

Rob FowlerSmall Business Association of Michigan President and CEO Rob Fowler says the organization applauds Gov. Snyder’s announcement that Michigan’s economic development strategy will switch to a greater focus on “economic gardening.” Fowler says gardening is crucial because home grown small businesses, particularly fast growing second-stage firms, are the companies that create jobs.

Small Business Association of Michigan resources on "economic gardening":

“Propelling a New Economic Direction for Michigan” White Paper
SBAM’s Blueprint for “Propelling a New Economic Direction for Michigan” report.
"Economic gardening" informational webpage

“We also enthusiastically support Gov. Snyder’s Michigan Dashboard tool that will measure our progress toward economic growth. We’re encouraged that he’s going to use metrics that can be tracked and evaluated. We’ve heard from our members that they want elected officials to be held more accountable for their actions, and we’re thrilled that the governor is implementing a system that will make that accountability possible.”

Fowler also says that Gov. Snyder’s new budget timelines show a gratifying focus on sound, long term planning instead of short term budget gimmicks. “Small business owners, like the governor, are focused on outcomes and results, and his plans for improving the management of state government are a tremendous step in the right direction,” says Fowler.

How Social Media and GOV 2.0 are Revolutionizing Public/Private Sector Collaboration

By John Westra is Director, NuWave Government Solutions. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

Ask any small business owner about their “relationship” with government and you are likely to get an earful. Listen to small business owners carefully and you will hear one key complaint repeated over and over: “government doesn’t pay attention to us or listen to our needs.”

In fact, if it were not for the well organized advocacy efforts of SBAM, the voices of Michigan’s small businesses would be a whisper in comparison to the deep pocketed lobbying efforts and slick PR and marketing campaigns of national and international corporations. The good news; the explosive growth of Social Media, coupled with a push for government to use the Internet to be more open, responsive and accountable (GOV 2.0) is leveling the playing field and revolutionizing Public/Private Sector collaboration!

Social Networking is a phrase that for many brings to mind an afternoon on the golf course or a cup of coffee at the local diner. But to the more than 142 million Social Media users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and various blogs, it means spending “an average of six plus hours per month, connecting with and expanding their online community of “friends.”” (Nielsen, June 2010)

Social media can be defined as “The social interaction, creation and distribution of content, including text, photos, audio and video, via highly accessible Internet-based applications.”
The main catalyst for the adoption of social media by government is politics. After the press credited social media for helping President Obama win, the flood gates of social media adoption by politicians opened wide. Although not all of them “get it,” virtually all current and would-be elected officials now have a Facebook page, with many having a presence on all the major social media platforms.

Rick Snyder is a great example of someone who understands the power of social media. Rick, who admittedly bills himself as “One Tough Nerd,” has seen his Facebook following go from a few hundred to over 31,000 followers in a matter of months.

Rick Snyder was quoted as saying “Social media provides new and more effective ways for government to directly communicate with citizens and involve them with the day to day operations of the state, offering opportunities to have their voices and feedback heard…Effectively communicating with citizens is an essential aspect of customer service government.”

So how does this translate into a value proposition for small businesses? The answer to this question can be summed up in three words: Access, Engagement and Influence.
Access to the people we’ve elected to represent us is the holy grail of representative democracy. In years past, campaign communication was one way. Elected officials could simply dismantle their campaign centers and walk away, effectively putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their office doors. Social media has made that impossible. Politicians who walk away from their social media network(s) would face an instant negative backlash.
An ongoing commitment to maintaining their connections to citizens and stakeholders (small business), translates into a defacto “open door” policy that benefits everyone. This is the type of access that previously cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying to maintain.

Engagement is the “secret” ingredient for any effective communication and another reason why social media and Government 2.0 (GOV 2.0) applications are growing so rapidly. Before I talk about the importance of engagement, let’s first define what GOV 2.0 is.
“Government 2.0 or “e-government” is the philosophy of transparent, efficient and accountable governance, facilitated by the use of ubiquitous, easy to access and interactive Internet-enabled applications.”

Will repeal of the federal health care law hurt small businesses? A misleadingly simple question with a complex answer.

health insuarnceA recent PIRGIM report claims that repeal of the federal health care law would hurt small business owners. But the report is misleading because it simplistically presents outright repeal as the only option in the ongoing debate over health care reform.

Small Business Association of Michigan health care expert Scott Lyon says that although the association has not taken a position on outright repeal, he thinks it’s important that Congress focus on reforming the federal health care law with new provisions that address the underlying problem facing small business owners: health insurance is too expensive. "Health care costs are rising at three to four times the rate of inflation," Lyon says. "There doesn't appear to be anything in the federal health care law that slows down this trend."

Lyon suggests that tort reform, greater use of electronic record keeping, encouragement of wellness programs and market-based tools such as Health Savings Accounts would be important steps toward controlling the rising cost of health insurance.

The PIRGIM report claims that repeal of the federal health care law would eliminate a variety of tax credits aimed at small businesses. In fact, very few Michigan small business owners qualify for the credits, according to Lyon.

Lyon recently appeared on WILX-TV10 to discuss health care reform.

The Small Business Association of Michigan has produced a Health Care Reform Guide for small business owners. You can find it here on the association’s Health Care Reform website.
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