There are three key components whenever our 150 legislators gather for their annual lawmaking duties at the Indiana Statehouse:
A LEGISLATIVE session takes place
Senators and reps VOTE on a wide variety of issues
When it’s all over, we do the ANALYSIS
Put it all together and you have the Chamber’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis. For the 27th year, we tell you which legislators voted for the pro-economy, pro-jobs agenda and which attempted to stand in the way. It’s an involved process to compile all the votes on the identified issues for each legislator. But the result is a simple score.
The full analysis has all the individual votes on pages that contain an overload of +/- symbols. Then there are the bill descriptions for those who want to know exactly what each vote meant. But the bottom line is the one-page scoresheetthat gives a score for 2011 and a two-year average.
You can also check out our BizVoice magazine storyfor some analysis. Pay attention! Thank the legislators with the high totals; for those who don’t measure up, insist that they do better.
While we’re not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber, we wanted to make you aware of a contest they’re having, in which winners will receive a trip for two to our nation’s capital:
With the Fourth of July around the corner, we’re celebrating the American Dream and the small businesses that embody it.
You and I both know that people with passion, great ideas and the will to succeed are what make America great.
In honor of that spirit and the millions of small businesses who took a risk to make their dreams a reality, we’re launching the American Dream Photo Contest.
To enter, simply upload a photo of a small business that embodies the American Dream by July 13. Tell us briefly what the American Dream means to you and why your photo represents what’s best about our country. The winner will receive a trip for two to Washington, D.C.
The winning submission will be selected by your votes and announced by July 29.
The vision set forth 235 years ago on July 4 is alive and well today. It lives on through every citizen that takes a risk to pursue his or her dream and strengthens the entrepreneurial spirit of our country.
Learn more about the American Dream Photo Contest by visiting our Facebook page now.
Are you an Indiana Chamber member with news to share? I get asked a lot about placing that information in our BizVoice magazine, but that’s difficult. BizVoice is a statewide publication on a bimonthly schedule, so the amount of news we receive would overwhelm our print edition (but still let us know because it could be used to help stimulate an idea for a future story).
But what we do offer is a near immediate (we have to verify your membership) online opportunity to communicate your accomplishments with other Chamber members, our extensive web site visitors and more.
Former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut recently sat down with Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business to discuss the effort underway to reuse the GM Stamping Plant downtown.
Reusing facilities is an ongoing challenge — and opportunity — that many Indiana communities are facing. For more on this, see my story in the November/December 2010 edition of BizVoice magazine, highlighting efforts in Connersville, Elkhart, Muncie and Tipton.
The BizVoice magazine team is hard at work on profiles and stories related to the 2011 Indiana Companies to Watch program. That included a Monday trip to Warsaw to conduct a roundtable discussion with the leaders of four of this year’s 43 honorees.
It’s always great to sit down and learn what makes organizations shine. Some (maybe a lot of) passion, willingness to take risks and deep caring for the people within their companies are a few of the common attributes typically seen. And Monday was no exception.
I don’t think the 2011 honorees have been officially released yet. But we gathered in Northern Indiana to bring in business leaders from Fort Wayne, South Bend, Elkhart and Rochester (thanks Sam, Bernie, Gregg and Rex). Three of the companies were formed in the last 11 years, while the fourth goes back to 1984. They may be diverse in their types of work, but similar in the good news their success means for their employees, families and communities.
If the subject is education or workforce development, one of the more popular acronyms is STEM. But the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are not treated equally, according to a new report.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the report was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (although other nonprofit research entities were also involved). And although elevating science is one of the lead concepts, there are a number of suggestions for policymakers in the effort to improve all STEM disciplines.
A few of the highlights:
“A growing number of jobs — not just those in professional science — require knowledge of STEM fields,” said Adam Gamoran, chair of the committee that wrote the report and professor of sociology and educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “The goal isn’t only to have a capable and competitive work force. We need to help all students become scientifically literate because citizens are increasingly facing decisions related to science and technology — whether it’s understanding a medical diagnosis or weighing competing claims about the environment.”
The report identifies key elements of high-quality STEM education to which policymakers could target improvements:
A coherent set of standards and curriculum. States and districts should have rigorous K-12 STEM standards and curricula that are focused on the most important topics in each discipline and presented as a sequence of content and practices that build knowledge over time.
Teachers with high capacity to teach in their discipline. Good teachers need to know both STEM content and how to teach it; many teachers are currently underprepared to teach STEM-related courses.
A supportive system of assessment and accountability. Current assessments limit educators’ ability to teach in ways that promote learning the content and understanding the practices of science and mathematics.
Adequate instructional time. The average amount of time spent on science instruction in elementary classrooms has decreased in recent years even as the time on mathematics instruction has increased. This is likely due to the focus on math and English language arts in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The report suggests that one way to elevate science to the same level of importance as mathematics and reading is to assess science subjects as frequently as is done for reading and math, using an assessment system that supports learning and understanding. However, such a system is not yet available for science subjects, the report notes. States and national organizations need to develop assessments that are aligned with the next generation of science standards — which will be based on a framework to be released soon by the Research Council — and that emphasize science practices rather than mere factual recall.
National and state policymakers also should invest in helping educators in STEM fields teach more effectively, said the committee. For example, teachers should be able to pursue professional development through peer collaboration and professional learning communities, among other approaches. Schools and school districts should devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K-5 to lay a foundation for further study, the report notes, as research suggests that interest in science careers may develop in the elementary school years.
A few Washington-related items that came across my radar screen in recent reading:
Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman says he never considered running for president while in his service as U.S. ambassador to China. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that. But Huntsman notes that he never intended to stay in the previous role for more than two years — and admits that he failed to tell that to President Obama. Oops!
While many are criticizing the federal health care reform effort for what it tries to do, a former administration official is blasting it for its failure to address a related subject. Former OMB Director Peter Orszag says that as long as doctors follow evidence-based protocols, they should be exempted from medical malpractice suits. "His quote: "Unfortunately, in the health act, this was one of the largest missed opportunities." Anything to help curb the lawsuit mania that grips our country would be a good thing. Can we start over on that reform thing?
News flash! The U.S. Postal Service is a broken system — and Congress wants to fix it. Ending Saturday delivery and closing more branches are part of the plan, as well as renegotiating collective bargaining agreements. I don’t know the answer, but something must be done sooner rather than later to fix an uncompetitive, costly government-run program.
Many customer service nightmare stories involve the visible "mistreatment" of a person in your store or office location. When the problem is online, too many organizations fail to recognize they have a problem — and they’re paying for it.
A new study estimates 23% of annual online revenue is going by the wayside as the result of poor online customer experiences. And about four out of five survey respondents indicated they have little or no understanding why customers leave a shopping cart (78%) or exit a site (81%) without completing the purchase.
According to the study, limited understanding of the overall online customer experience, lack of multi-channel approach, and hard-to-diagnose site usability issues are all contributing factors to the poor consumer experiences that lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue. Most are reactive and rely on other channels to discover customer issues, with 76 percent most likely to learn about site problems as a result of calls to the customer service team or through customer emails.
The report, Reducing Customer Struggle, reveals that nearly one-fifth (18 percent) of businesses rate their understanding of the online customer experience as "poor" or "very poor," with only four percent classing it as "excellent."
When asked to identify the single most common problem that customers might encounter on their websites, bad site navigation/poor ‘findability’ was considered to be both the most common (57 percent) and most serious (55 percent) problem. 29 percent cited lack of information as the second most common and serious (31 percent) problem that might drive customers away from websites. When it comes to effective approaches for understanding the customer experience, only 11% of respondents said that they use session replay technology but an astounding 95% of those found it to be quite or very effective.
Linking online and offline channels and sharing insights across both is also a major challenge for businesses, with only three percent describing the multi-channel experience they provide as "excellent" and nearly a quarter (24 percent) rating it as "poor" or "very poor." Sixty percent of the companies polled admit that the offline parts of their business have little or no understanding of the experience a customer might have at their online store. Currently only 49 percent of companies have processes in place to prioritize and rectify the problems and issues customers face online; this practice will become even more critical as companies add a new channel into the mix, as 52 percent of those polled plan to invest in the mobile internet this year.
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council has gleaned 10 interesting bullet points about U.S. businesses from the most recent census. Most likely, No. 11 would have been, "It’s now documented that Donald Trump has the most creative hair of all American business owners."
Consider the following "Ten Fascinating Facts about Business" based on the Census findings:
51.6 percent of businesses were operated primarily from someone’s home.
23.8 percent of employer firms operated out of a home.
62.9 percent of non-employer businesses were home-based.
20.8 percent of new businesses used no start-up capital.
"Roughly three in 10 (30.6 percent) of the respondent firms that required start-up capital launched their business with less than $5,000. Of the firms that needed start-up capital, 17.5 percent of employer firms needed less than $5,000; for nonemployer firms, the figure was 35.8 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, 1.5 percent of the firms needing start-up capital required $1 million or more for this purpose."
"One in 10 businesses (10.4 percent) was started or acquired by owners who used a credit card to finance the start-up or acquisition of their business. A similar percentage (10.7 percent) financed their start-up or acquisition with a business loan from a bank or financial institution."
Surprisingly, "e-commerce sales were reported by only 6.6 percent of firms."
"About 28.2 percent of firms were family-owned. These family-owned firms accounted for 42.0 percent of all firms’ receipts."
"Business owners were well-educated: 50.8 percent of owners of respondent firms had a college degree."
And 13.6 percent of business owners were foreign born.
Now as much as ever, it’s critical for all American businesses to convey one characteristic — integrity. If people don’t believe your communicators when they speak, your days as a profitable business are numbered. Michael Sebastian of Ragan.com offers a few key phrases to avoid when speaking with reporters or the public, lest you seem like you’re hiding something:
Ever prefaced a statement with, “To be perfectly honest, I …”?
Look out. That’s a verbal crutch—sometimes called a throat-clearing statement—and when speaking to the media it could hurt a spokesperson’s credibility.
Barbara Gibson, a social media trainer and former chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), discovered this phenomenon while assessing the strengths and weaknesses of corporate spokespeople.
To perform the analysis, a journalist interviewed individual spokespeople for 40 minutes, then the journalist and a PR assessor rated their abilities across 12 key skills. Among the areas she examined was whether journalists considered the spokesperson “open and honest.”
“We found there is a very big difference between being open and honest and seeming so,” Gibson explained in an email to PR Daily.
She began by analyzing various aspects of spokespeople’s performances to learn why journalists think they’re not truthful when they are, in fact, telling the truth.
“I found that the higher the number of uses of verbal crutches within an interview, the lower the score in this area,” she said. “Then I also realized that those spokespeople [who use] what I identified as ‘honesty-related’ verbal crutches … almost always had lower scores.”
Four of these “honesty-related” crutches are:
1. “Let’s be clear”;
2. “To be perfectly honest”;
4. “Just between you and me.”