Yoder: From Software to Students

yoder picMax Yoder and Lesson.ly are rightfully getting a lot of attention (see our BizVoice magazine story). But the budding entrepreneurial star has a second organization he is leading.

Here’s his explanation of The First Fund and what it means:

“We have a ton of work to do with The First Fund, and it is very much an experiment. The experiment revolves around the fact that there are these awesome first-grade teachers out there who have direct relationships with their kids and also direct relationships with the parents. Often those parents don’t come from the financial wherewithal they would like.

“We work with those teachers to identify those kids and parents. We set up a 529 (education savings account) plan for their children and then help the parents add money to those accounts.”

Yoder outlines the principles of mentorship, financial planning and scholarship that are so critical. Then, in a matter of 30 seconds, the 27-year-old showcases both his sense of humor and his passion for others.

“I met a bunch of first-grade kids during a failed relationship to a first-grade teacher. Now I’m madly in love with a second-grade teacher; I’ve upgraded. It’s the kids — the hope on their faces.”

Yoder goes on to talk about the recent serious heart attack and challenging recovery of his friend John (who helped start The First Fund).

“The First Fund has never been more important to me, to make that work. John’s going to pull through, and we’re going to make sure that The First Fund is in the best shape it can be.”

Yoder concludes by describing the difference between his growing software training firm and his non-profit.

“Lesson.ly is this big, high-growth engine. Bigger is better in our world. In The First Fund world, I have to put on a very different hat. It’s not let’s see how fast we can give scholarships to as many kids as possible. It’s let’s see how we can maximize the scholars we already have — making sure we can really, really drive value for the people who are here.”

Good luck, Max. And kudos for the work you are doing.

Sen. Donnelly: “Roads Aren’t Republican or Democrat”

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In a visit with the Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Policy Committee today, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) said he believes a new long-term highway infrastructure bill should be enacted yet this year.

Citing “desperate, crying” infrastructure needs, the senator said two imperatives are to “make sure we (Indiana) get our share” and “make sure we get it funded. We’re talking about  a six-year deal. I’ll take a five-year deal (if need be).”

Indiana is currently receiving 95 cents back on each tax dollar that it sends to Washington. In recent discussions, Donnelly voted no on a proposal that would have included Indiana’s share dropping to between 90 cents and 92 cents on the dollar. The goal, he says, is for no state to be funded at a lower percentage level than in the last long-term deal.

Transportation funding has been dependent on a series of short-term extensions that have not provided the resources needed for states to act with any certainty. Donnelly cited several instances of the damaging impact in Indiana, including the current closure of Interstate 65 near Lafayette due to bridge instability.

“Roads aren’t Republican or Democrat; they’re roads,” he explains. “There’s no way to do this without investment. I’m for seven different ways to fund this thing. Just pick one (or more). I just want to build roads.”

Donnelly also discussed potential changes to the Affordable Care Act (including his support for elimination of the medical device tax), the consequences of Washington legislating through Executive Orders, the debt limit, immigration, Iran, global environmental concerns and more.

Congress is scheduled to resume its work in Washington after Labor Day. Indiana Chamber members will be traveling to Washington on September 16-17 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. You can still register to participate.

Plastic Paving in Our Future?

9809397We’ve got an infrastructure funding problem in our state and country. This likely isn’t one of the solutions currently being considered. But then think of all the technological advances we enjoy today that were once just a dream.

Entrepreneur.com has the story:

If you drive a car, then you’ve invariably experienced the insanity and frustration that potholes can cause. Roads made of asphalt aren’t perfect. They crack and crumble. The longer they go without repairs the more damage they inflict on our cars (and insurance policies).

One construction company in the Netherlands thinks it has the solution: roads made of recycled plastic from the ocean. Scientists at construction firm VolkerWessels are collaborating with the city of Rotterdam in Holland to build prototypes of these pre-frabricated strips of road called PlasticRoad.

The benefits of pre-fab roads made of recycled plastic, as VolkerWessels sees them:

  • Built in a fraction of the construction time (weeks, not months)
  • Virtually maintenance free
  • Can withstand greater extremes in temperature (-40 degrees F to nearly 180 degree F)
  • They have three times the expected lifespan of traditional asphalt
  • Have a lightweight design, meaning roadways could more easily be moved or adjusted

PlasticRoad would also have a hollow space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater, VolkerWessels says. Check it out

The next step in the prototype phase is to test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions, VolkerWessels says. If all goes well, the company hopes to lay the first fully recycled roadway sometime within three years, Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, said in a recent interview.

One can only imagine how much more quiet rubber tires on plastic roads would be than on asphalt. And, sayonara potholes. Good riddance.

Changing the Way We Work

7768406The Dolly Parton song and film “9 to 5” are 35 years old. If recreated today, there would undoubtedly need to be a new title.

A new CareerBuilder survey indicates that, much like flip phones and fax machines, the traditional eight-hour work day may be on its way out. More than 1,000 full-time workers in information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services – industries that historically have more traditional work hours – participated in the nationwide study, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, to discuss their habits and attitudes toward the traditional nine-to-five work day.

According to the survey, 63 percent of workers in these industries believe “working nine to five” is an outdated concept, and a significant number have a hard time leaving the office mentally. Nearly 1 in 4 (24 percent) check work emails during activities with family and friends.

Today, many workers in these industries find themselves working outside of the traditional eight-hour time frame: 50 percent of these workers say they check or respond to work emails outside of work, and nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) say they continue to work outside of office hours.

Though staying connected to the office outside of required office hours may seem like a burden, most of these workers (62 percent) perceive it as a choice rather than an obligation.

“Workers want more flexibility in their schedules, and with improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “Moving away from a nine-to-five work week may not be possible for some companies (yet), but if done right, allowing employees more freedom and flexibility with their schedules can improve morale, boost productivity and increase retention rates.”

But just because the office – or the blackberry – is out of sight, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s out of mind: 20 percent of these workers say work is the last thing they think about before they go to bed, and more than twice as many (42 percent) say it’s the first thing they think about when they wake up. Nearly 1 in 5 of these workers (17 percent) say they have a tough time enjoying leisure activities because they are thinking about work.

Male workers in these fields are more likely than female workers to work outside of office hours (44 percent versus 32 percent); check or respond to work emails outside of work (59 percent versus 42 percent); and check on work activities while they are out with friends and family (30 percent versus 18 percent).

Female workers, however, are more likely than male workers to go to bed thinking about work (23 percent versus 16 percent).

When it comes to working outside of traditional office hours, 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-old workers in these fields will work outside of office hours, compared to 50 percent of 45- to 54-year-old workers and 38 percent of workers ages 55 and above. Meanwhile, 52 percent of workers ages 18-24 check or respond to work emails outside of work, versus 46 percent of workers ages 55 and above.

 

If Image is Everything, U.S. in Trouble

19218071The Reputation Institute does studies on, guess what, reputations. In this case, its all about countries.

In many ways, countries are like companies; They have “brands” to protect, budgets to adhere to, and many “competitors” vying for their export business, international diplomacy status and tourism dollars — and, as in business, a country’s global reputation can be the pivotal touch point around which those other metrics revolve.

According to new research from the Reputation Institute, Canada has moved back into the leading slot for reputation, having passed Switzerland to regain the top spot in this year’s Country RepTrak, the world’s largest annual survey of country reputations, showing regional trends for North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Canada, the United States and Mexico all improved their reputations, according to the survey.

Since the survey began in 2010, Canada has ranked first all but two of those years and never lower than second place. At the top of the list are all of Scandinavia, with Norway in second place, immediately followed by Sweden and Switzerland.

Historically, the reputation of the United States has been poor, even though the country’s image has improved 20% compared to an average reputation. Elsewhere around the world, Latin America is improving its reputation overall, but Brazil is experiencing a decline in reputation. Northern European countries are in the top 10, and Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland have improved their reputations due to improvements in certain economic indicators. Japan has the best reputation in Asia and while Asian countries are improving their reputations, theirs are still weak overall. Russia’s reputation is declining due to the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea’s annexation.

The top 10 countries in the 2015 Country RepTrak are:

Canada
Norway
Sweden
Switzerland
Australia
Finland
New Zealand
Denmark
Netherlands
Belgium

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Potrait of a young multi-racial Business Group

The operative word in the headline above this post is ALL. With that being a factor, the answer is probably a resounding No. It’s just human nature.

A recent Ragan Communications’ article (based on a survey by Viking) identified lateness, whining and eating smelly food as office workers’ most annoying habits. Ragan reports:

More than 40 percent of respondents said the annoyances made them consider leaving their jobs — with a striking 5 percent having actually quit.

The top 20 most annoying habits by rank:

1. Being regularly late
2. Whining all the time
3. Eating stinking food
4. Taking lots of cigarette breaks
5. Deliberately taking a long time to do something/constant procrastination
6. Not replacing things that run out (e.g., printer paper, coffee)
7. Talking on the phone too loudly
8. Having bad hygiene (coffee breath, BO, visibly dirty clothes)
9. Gossiping
10. Spraying deodorants, aftershaves and perfumes at desk
11. Coming to work when very ill
12. Texting/using mobile phone all day
13. Having an untidy desk
14. Talking too much about private life
15. Invading personal space
16. Not making a tea round
17. Humming/whistling/singing
18.Constantly tapping/clicking pens/typing too loud
19. Stealing other people’s food/lunch
20. Using jargon

Only a third of respondents were prepared to try and solve a given problem, with a further 30 percent saying they avoided approaching the problem in order to avoid conflict.

Women are more likely to be riled by an empty toilet paper holder, whereas men ranked office gossip as a top bad habit. When it comes to confrontation, women are more likely to keep quiet to keep the peace.

Data: Fewer Workers Making Move for New Jobs

iStock_000021218674_LargeThe percentage of job seekers relocating for new positions declined in the first half of 2015, suggesting that as the recovery spreads, individuals are able to find better employment opportunities in their local market.

Over the first two quarters of the year, 10 percent of job seekers moved for new employment, according to the latest job search data from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That was down from an average of 15 percent in the last half of 2014. In the first half of 2014, 11.4 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions.

The relocation rate in the last six months of 2014 was the highest since the first half of 2009, when an average of 16.3 percent of job seekers moved in the immediate wake of the recession.

The Challenger relocation rate is based on a quarterly survey of approximately 1,000 job seekers who concluded their search by finding employment, starting a business or retiring.

“The tipping point for relocation is very sensitive. Most people do not want to pick up stakes and move solely for employment. We tend to see relocation surge at the onset of recessions and in the early stages of recovery, as different geographical areas are impacted at different times. However, as recovery spreads and jobs become more available throughout the country, relocation begins to ebb,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Nationally, the unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent in June. However, there were 183 metropolitan areas below that level as of May, according to the latest available data on state and local employment from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Furthermore, there were 148 metropolitan areas with an unemployment rate below 5.0 percent, at which point the balance of power in the job market shifts away from employers and toward job seekers,” noted Challenger.

“As local job markets improve around the country, there is less incentive to move. Employment alone is not a strong enough factor. There would have to be some other motivation, whether that’s family, health, lifestyle, or cost-of-living,” he added.

Eleven Offering Soccer, Business Combo

08-19-15vTBR_Networking-Night (720)I love to tackle (no pun intended) stories that fall under the Business of Sports banner, combining business elements with the games we love to watch and play. Our team did some excellent work in BizVoice from Nov-Dec 2013 through Sept-Oct 2014, with a summary available here.

The Indy Eleven, in a rare Wednesday night game on August 19, is mixing soccer action with a “Networking Night” featuring business leaders representing a variety of industries.

A pre-game reception, open forum with the business representatives, dinner, two drink vouchers and exciting professional soccer (7:30 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Carroll Stadium) are all included for just $25. Tickets are now available.

Tired But Still Plugging Away

19185195MarketWatch shares some facts from recent surveys and reports that seem to provide some contradiction (at least in the first two). Judge for yourself:

  • More than half of Americans (53%) are burned out and overworked (Staples Advantage survey of 2,000-plus workers) …
  • … But 86% report that they’re happy and willing to work to earn a promotion within their organization
  • Regarding email: About half say they receive too much, with a third of those claiming the overload harms their productivity. In a separate survey, the majority (52%) expect replies to work-related emails within 12 to 24 hours
  • In a highly-publicized 2014 finding by career web site Glassdoor, workers do not utilize all of their paid vacation or other time off. And, 61% work while on vacation; 25% say they are contacted about the job by co-workers while taking time off and 20% are in contact with their boss
  • Finally, the Staples survey finds employees citing inefficiencies: 20% spend more than two hours a day in meetings and nearly 50% say productivity is harmed by distractions (including loud co-workers)

Getting the Job Done — or Not?

Disagreements in Washington are nothing new. But this time the topic is a little different. The following comes from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council:

SBA recently celebrated the federal government’s achievement in exceeding contracting goals with small businesses, but members of Congress are disputing the claim.  An SBA communications piece says that Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet has worked “tirelessly” to hit the goal since she took over SBA’s helm.  SBA reported that 24.99% of federal contracting dollars went to small businesses in 2014, thus exceeding the 23% goal. SBA says this is the highest percentage ever reached since the goal was established in 1997.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) called the report “flawed” because (according to a media release) “the SBA continues to exclude nearly $78 billion in federal contract dollars reported into the federal procurement data system, plus at least $6 billion to $10 billion that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) illegally excluded from the database. These are dollars spent by the federal government that should be subject to small business contracting goals.

Moreover, the SBA scorecard focuses intensely on just one factor — prime contract dollars. While this is certainly an indicator, it does not represent a holistic–and more accurate–depiction of the industrial base. For example, there are 100,000 fewer contractors today than there were four years ago and the number of contract actions being awarded to small businesses has fallen by nearly 60 percent. Furthermore, the Administration is still not meeting its subcontracting goal, even though SBA lowered the goal last year.”

Senate Small Business Committee Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) has also focused on the issue of flawed reporting in small business procurement.  On May 19, Chairman Vitter sent a letter to the SBA Administrator requesting detailed information about their reporting following an IG report, which found that contracts being counted towards the small business goal went to bigger businesses.