A Valuable Lesson Learned

This summer, I’ll celebrate 15 years with the Chamber.

It was my first job out of college. An early lesson learned was this: No matter how hard you work, there will be days when you can’t complete every task on your to-do list. I’m a perfectionist and my own worst critic, so that was a difficult premise to accept. But I’m glad I did!

Are you tough on yourself at day’s end? Check out this Inc. article, which challenges readers to ask themselves five key questions.

My favorites:

  • What did I get done today that I’m feeling good about?
    Now don’t just give them a cursory glance – actually read through the list of things that you were able to cross off and give yourself a pat on the back for getting them done. This might sound kind of silly, but it is amazing how much better you feel at the end of the day when you acknowledge what you did instead of beating yourself up for what you didn’t do.
  • What am I going to do differently tomorrow?
    As you ponder the things you learned during the day, think also about how you will do things differently tomorrow. This might mean doing more of some things, less of others. It might mean deciding to smile more or be more patient. Or it might mean saying no more often, so that you can actually get more done.

A Day to Remember in Evansville

evilleArmed with my Starbuck’s latte, I stepped out into the cold. It was mid-January and I was headed to Evansville to conduct interviews for our education/workforce development issue of BizVoice® magazine.

I started the day around 7 a.m. and didn’t pull into my driveway until shortly after 7 p.m. that evening. You know what? It was worth it. In fact, it was unforgettable.

First up: Ivy Tech’s College Connection Coach initiative. The program places Ivy Tech employees in high schools to promote a culture of college attainment and to provide career counseling and advisement. Launched last fall, it stresses collaboration with guidance counselors, administrators and teachers.

Carrie Feltis, a College Connection Coach in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, spends two days a week at both Central and Harrison High Schools. While visiting Central, I watched her interact with a senior named Lindsey, with whom she’s worked closely. What a rapport! They shared laughs – lots of them – and proudly conveyed Lindsey’s many accomplishments. Among them: She’ll be the first member of her family to graduate from high school.

Next was a visit to Ivy Tech Community College-Southwest/Wabash Valley Region hosted by chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel, a former state legislator and Evansville mayor. He passionately expressed the importance of the program and its potential impact in leading students down a path that includes postsecondary education.

Then it was time to dive into my next story. It was time to step into Signature School.

Signature, the state’s first charter school, is nationally recognized for its challenging curriculum and unique culture. Located in downtown Evansville, its close proximity to libraries, the YMCA, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and more provides the backdrop for learning beyond the doors of Signature’s two buildings.

Executive Director Jean Hitchcock beamed as we stepped into dynamic classrooms and met the people who create Signature’s success. The teachers are passionate. The students are spirited. It’s a tight-knit team that lives by the Signature Way.

If there’s one word to sum up my impressions of Signature, it’s this: brilliant.

Brilliant minds. Brilliant opportunities. That’s Signature.

Wick’s Pies: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment Through Compliance Resources

foodserviceLife is sweet at Wick’s Pies

The family-owned business, which opened in 1944 and has been an Indiana Chamber member since 1984, has a tight-knit team that whips up flavors such as pecan, pumpkin, sugar crème (the state pie), coconut crème, German chocolate and more. During an eight-hour production shift, the associates can bake as many as 12,000 pies. In addition, they can make 40 shells per minute in a seven-hour period.

Wick’s has spawned Wick’s Foods (which makes pie glaze for Wick’s Pies) and a restaurant – all located within a block of one another in Winchester.

Human resources specialist Tonya Fouse notes that prior to joining Wick’s Pies in 2006, “I worked in the automotive industry and was a purchasing manager. I had strong managerial skills, but I didn’t know a thing about HR.

“It was baptism by fire and our tool to teach me was the Indiana Chamber – the seminars I went to, all the reading material I could get my hands on (citing publications that cover topics such as unemployment law, worker’s compensation and labor relations), and the (helpline) resources I could call.”

Fouse proudly shares that she earned the Chamber’s Human Resources Specialist Certificate in 2012 after attending a variety of training events. In addition, she routinely utilizes the Chamber’s HR Helpline, a free, confidential resource exclusively available to members.

“We’ve just about hit every topic there is. With FMLA (for instance), it seems there’s always something that evolves. I totally trust in that resource, and it’s wonderful for me to be able to shoot an email (to director of human resources Michelle Kavanaugh) and a response comes back within the hour. It’s been a lifesaving tool for me.

“(The Chamber) kind of formed me and molded me into the HR specialist I am today.”

Isn’t That Sweet? Valentine’s Day Spending is Soaring

FWho loves you, baby?

Valentine’s Day spending will reach $18.9 billion this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Gifts run the gamut, but candy takes the cake with consumers.

Here’s an excerpt from an NRF press release, which has the breakdown:

While most (53.2%) plan to buy candy for the sweet holiday, spending a total of $1.7 billion, one in five (21.1%) plans to buy jewelry for a total of $4.8 billion, the highest amount seen since NRF began tracking spending on Valentine’s gifts in 2010.

Additionally 37.8% will buy flowers, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and more than one-third (35.1%) will spend on plans for a special night out, including movies and restaurants, totaling $3.6 billion. Celebrants will also spend nearly $2 billion on clothing and $1.5 billion on the gift that keeps on giving: gift cards.

It turns out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovebirds. Although 91% of those surveyed plan to indulge their significant others/spouses with gifts, 58.7% will dish out an average of $26.26 on other family members and $6.30 on children’s classmates/teachers.

Delectable chocolates, sweet gestures and a hearty economic impact – you’ve got to love it.

Making the ‘Magic’ Happen in Vegas

cDear technology,
I love you. I love you not.

Technology often strikes me as more foe than friend, like when the Internet is down or an automated operator makes me jump through hoops as I try to pay a bill. Still, I can’t help but appreciate – and marvel at – the cutting-edge inventions that are changing life as we know it.

My jaw dropped more than once, for instance, while reading this Time story written during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a four-day technology extravaganza that wrapped up last week in Las Vegas.

Among the mind-boggling technology zooming our way: self-driving cars!

Audi pulled a stunt in which it got what it calls a “piloted car” (it shies away from “driverless”) from San Francisco to Vegas in time for the show. Mercedes CEO Dietrich Zetsche showed off a bullet-shaped autonomous concept car with a cabin that’s more like a living room than a car. Audi presented a smartwatch app that can signal your car to drive itself out of your garage and come pick you up.

And feast your eyes (or gums) on this gadget:

Some of the most fun stuff at CES is also the downright strangest. Oral-B’s Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush syncs up with a smartwatch app in an effort to help consumers brush better.

Sometimes, fact really is stranger than fiction.

Raising the Woof: Speak Your Dog’s Language, Sort Of

87739557It appears there really is a business idea waiting to happen for just about everything.

When I first got a Shih Tzu puppy, the thought of leaving him alone while I was at work bummed me out – and probably him, too. I turned the radio on in the mornings so he wouldn’t be lonely and even left a message on our answering machine once or twice that first week (something along the lines of “mommy will be home soon!”) Ridiculous or endearing? You decide.

If only there had been a way for him to give me a verbal “paws up” that he was OK.

Now there is.

WÜF, touted as “the world’s smartest dog collar,” offers two-way audio with man’s best friend. The collar sounds pretty cool – it’s waterproof, shockproof and bite-proof. Other features include activity tracking, GPS, feeding recommendations, games and more.

I heard about this device in an Entrepreneur.com story. Here’s an excerpt:

The mutual communication magic happens using a companion app and a microphone-speaker combo embedded in the rugged collar. You’ll receive alerts on a companion app from WÜF whenever your dog is, uh-oh, “barking a lot, crying, whining, growling or whimpering unexpectedly.” And, because it would be torture to listen to all that drooly doggy talk from far away without being able to respond, the app also lets you squawk back.

… the collar monitors your dog’s overall health and activity levels, lets you remotely play with and train your dog using customizable programs and even helps you keep your dog within an invisible “geofence” perimeter around your yard.

Now I don’t have to wonder what my beloved dog does all day – I’ll simply ask him.

Please Don’t Take This Job and Shove It

37193874Everyone talks about making a good first impression in the workplace. But it doesn’t stop there. When you’re ready to move onto a new opportunity, one of the worst things you can do is leave on poor terms.

This Business Insider article offers six tips for gracefully quitting your job and avoiding burning bridges (ruefully, I must admit that for years, I thought the expression was “burning britches.” That would be another unfortunate experience altogether.)

One piece of advice that stands out is to tell your boss in person. In my opinion, revealing the news via email is akin to breaking up with someone in a text.

Another word of caution: Stay positive. You’re moving on (to another job), right? So, move on – don’t grumble about things that frustrated you along the way.

Check out the story. Let us know if you agree or disagree with the suggestions, or share your own!

Have a Taste for Culinary Careers?

23064608Every weekend, I reach for a spoon – a big one – and dig into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. Delectable chocolate chunks. Crunchy walnuts mixed with bananas. It’s one of my favorite indulgences. But that doesn’t mean I want to be a primal ice cream therapist.

Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I until I saw Delish’s list of the 10 coolest food jobs (no pun intended)!

Check out this description:

Ben & Jerry’s Primal ice cream therapist (yes, that’s his real title!), Peter Lind, consumes four to five pints of ice cream in an average week (roughly 15 to 25 flavors per day). The purpose of this madness? To assure Ben & Jerry’s delivers the best-tasting product possible. Peter and his team dream up, then sample and adjust flavors over and over until they are completely satisfied. “You could make a chipotle ice cream, but exactly how hot should it be?” That’s the kind of creamy conundrum the gurus must figure out.

Crave adventure? Become a chocolate explorer:

Biting into a bar of chocolate, it’s hard to comprehend the journey those cocoa beans travel to get to your taste buds. Meet Ray Major, Scharffen Berger’s resident “cacao hunter.” It’s his job to source the best possible cacao for the company’s artisan chocolates. His work has taken him around the world to Nicaragua, Belgium, Ghana, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala … the list goes on. On these adventures, Major and his team visit plantations to evaluate the trees, discuss the crops, sample the pulp and study the quality of beans.

Food lovers also may enjoy careers as celeb chef assistants, restaurant publicists, gourmet food buyers or beekeepers – just to name a few. And getting paid for what you love to do? That’s icing on the cake.

Performance Reviews: Why the Compliment Sandwich Isn’t So Delicious

16248269Hooray! It’s time for a performance review.

Chances are, your team won’t have this reaction. At many organizations, annual evaluations create anxiety among employees. But what about supervisors? Many of them are nervous, too – especially when they need to broach uncomfortable topics.

According to a World of Business Ideas story, one of the worst things bosses can do to soften the blow of criticism is to serve a “compliment sandwich.” Here’s an excerpt:

What is a Compliment Sandwich? Well, beyond being one of the worst management techniques ever invented, it’s a way of trying to give critical feedback to somebody without making them feel bad. Basically, you give somebody a compliment, then you layer in a criticism, then you complete the sandwich with another compliment.

Don’t make the common mistake of trying to squeeze a negative performance critique or correction between layers of positive reinforcement. Imagine you’re Frank and your boss has just called you in for a little feedback. “Frank, you’re a world-class programmer, the absolute best. You’re probably the smartest guy in the department. You’ve been pretty nasty during our weekly meetings and it’s causing some hurt feelings. But I’m saying all this because you’re just so darn talented. I really just want to see you flourish.”

If I’m Frank, I just heard: “I’m great. I’m smart. Waa waa waa. I’m great. I’m smart.” Frank heard some compliments, then the sliding trombone sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher, then some more compliments. But he certainly didn’t hear anything about his job being in jeopardy or even that his performance is anything other than great.

Interesting. This amusing video starring “Puppet Mike” and colleagues shows the compliment sandwich in action.

Toy With Me: Holiday Toy Crazes are Gone but Not Forgotten

TWhat was your favorite childhood toy?

Mine was the Barbie doll. For hours at a time, I transformed my bedroom into an imaginary world. Strategically placed atop my carpet were Barbie’s favorite hangouts such as the beachside hot dog stand, ice cream shop, pool and glamourous dream house.

Each Christmas, I eagerly (and sometimes not so patiently) anticipated which coveted Barbie toys I would receive as gifts. During Christmas 1983, I added another item to my wish list: a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. That was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. Parents braved crowded department stores – and brawls even ensued – as the supply dwindled. My mom was at a department store and had just picked up a doll when a man reached down and literally grabbed it out of her hands. The nerve! I hope Santa left him coal in his stocking. Every year, there’s a holiday craze that defines a generation.

Check out this photo gallery, which illustrates 12 must-have toys over the past 80 years. What did the popular Shirley Temple doll cost in 1934? How much is Teddy Ruxpin, a huge hit in 1985, worth today? Channel your inner child and find out!