Unlimited Vacation, Free Beer and Kids at Work. Is this the Future Workplace?

CEOs and leaders of all organizations covet the creative culture of companies like Google or Zappos — it feels out of reach, but it may be right under their finger tips. The Iowa Creativity Summit is featuring Nancy Lyons of Clockwork in Minneapolis on May 28. Free beer, unlimited vacation and other fun perks are just a normal part of her work place, but is there something more to her culture?

Under Nancy’s leadership, Clockwork has received more than 16 “Best Workplace” awards, has won the Psychologically Healthy Workplace, Diversity in Business, Best Women Owned Business, and Bicycle Friendly Business awards to name a few. In June of 2014 Nancy spoke on the structure of the workplace at the inaugural White House Summit for Working Families in Washington, DC and now she’s coming to Drake University on May 28 to talk about what creativity really looks like.

Tickets are on sale at the Iowa Creativity Summit’s website: iowacreativitysummit.com


Looking to Buy a Franchise? Don’t Make These Mistakes

Inc.Magazine has a great article on the 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Buying a Franchise.

The one I want to touch on in this post is #4 – Not learning how to implement the franchise system. All too often, would be franchise owners think they are “buying their own business.” This is not really true. What you are really buying is a franchise system. (Well, at least you hope it is a system because far too many franchises have no system at all but that’s for a different blog post). You will need to implement the system and training programs into the business. But make no mistake – the franchisor is not interested in your plans to change their system or develop your own system. They are looking for you to run THEIR system. If you can’t do that franchising is definitely not for you.

I encourage you to read the full Inc. article.

Franchiseless in Seattle?

I had to share an excellent blog post on Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage: Not Unconstitutionally Discriminatory? by Shannon McCarthy of the ZorBlog. My tongue-in-cheek title unfortunately rings some truth. If you read Shannon’s post you will see that the Seattle mayor and city council members are, shall we say, less than welcoming to franchisors and franchisees alike.

The issue is that most local franchise businesses are your small, local, mom-and-pop operation. They’re a small business much like the local business down the street. The thought of paying $15.00 minimum wage to employees is daunting at the very least and perhaps impossible if the local franchisee hopes to make a profit. They are the same people you sit by at your high school sports events, attend your church and serve on local boards.

The problem is that Seattle has said that small employers have seven years to conform to the wage minimum while large employers have only three years to comply (four years if they provide health insurance). Large employers are defined as companies that employ over 500 people AND all franchisees associated with a franshisor or network of franchisors that employs more than 500 people aggregate in the United States.

Try telling your local franchisee that he or she is a large employer. They would probably look at you with bewilderment! Perhaps downright shocked. But Seattle’s mayor and city council certainly don’t seem to care and if a franchise or two (or hundreds) are lost along the way then so be it. The perception is that these franchises are big business. Not your local mom-and-pop.

This is just another example of why you need to carefully consider franchising as a potential business option. It is important to understand that franchising presents just as many risks as opening your own independent business, and in some cases the risks could even be greater.

BIZ Luncheon Features Casey Niemann of AgriSync

If you are fresh off your spring break and looking for a great networking event I recommend attending the BIZ Luncheon this Wednesday, March 25th at the Ruan II Building, 601 Locust, Conference Room 101 in Downtown Des Moines. Casey will share the tale of his leap from the corporate world with Microsoft to the start-up of his new business, AgriSync. It will be sure to be a great event!

For more information click here.

Agricultural Lawyers Join Brick Gentry Law Firm

The Brick Gentry Law Firm is pleased to announce that three distinguished agricultural attorneys have joined the law firm effective February 2, 2015.

Those attorneys include (click for bios):

Eldon McAfee

Erin Herbold-Swalwell

Julia Vyskocil

All three bring a breadth of experience particularly in Ag law including trials and business work.  We are very excited to have them on board with our firm!

Business Owners: Don’t Neglect Succession Planning

All too often business owners neglect succession planning. In fact, according to a recent Inc Magazine article and Deloitte survey on the topic, 90 percent of business leaders recognize the success of their company depends on effective leadership succession but only 13 percent are confident about the succession plans they have made. And those are business leaders who have actually MADE succession plans. I’d venture to guess, based upon my experience, that the majority business owners have no real succession plan in place.

It may be hard to think of your business without you. After all, it’s YOUR baby. But in order to build real value you need to start building a framework for the business to run without you. The Inc Magazine article has suggestion on how to build this framework:

  1. Outline ideal leadership characteristics – what type of leader does your company need? And here is something to remember, it isn’t necessarily the No. 2 person in the company due for the promotion that is the best leader for the future. Get specific on the qualities needed from your future leaders. I’ve had clients who owned family businesses and determined that the organization needed a more professional manager than the children coming through the ranks. Sometimes tough decisions are required.
  2. Define what actions your new CEO needs to take –  is the company looking for growth, will it be merging, will staff need to be trimmed? The executive coach quoted in the article says,  “Focus your leadership development program on strengthening employees’ ability to deliver strong and credible results, to master new types of expertise, and to uphold behavioral standards that reflect the company culture and values.”
  3. Identify mentors to assist the new leaders. This is critically important. I’ve noticed with my clients and my own businesses that good mentors are critical if you hope to build a sustainable business. If you aren’t there to mentor you need to find someone, whether it’s inside or outside your organization, who can serve in that role.
  4. Outline the fast-track process. How will the new leader know he/she is taking over. Identify those leaders and begin equipping them with the training, incentives and added authority of that role. And keep your word provided the new leader performs. I’ve seen it get real ugly when a future leader is groomed for taking over but then the rug is pulled out from underneath them. In one case, I saw a future leader leave to start his own business and took nearly all the business away when he left.  All because the owner was simply too greedy to turn over the reins as agreed upon (But the example also helps explain why not only incentives but also a strong non-compete are important to tie your future leader with the company).
  5. Build performance metrics. Figure out ways to measure a future leader’s problem-solving and decision making skills. The article suggests following the lead of companies such as IBM and GE can help you develop standardized methods of leadership development.

I encourage you to read the Inc article.

20 Franchise Trends from Industry News Source

Franchise Times has an interesting article on 20 to Watch: franchise trendsetters in 2015.

One of the more interesting items to me was No. 18 – So Sue Me. Apparently one enterprising insurance executive has set up a suite of insurance products specifically designed for franchisors and franchisees to limit their risk against lawsuits. You can learn more at Franchiseperils.com. (I am not endorsing the product as I have not investigated it but I did find it interesting that someone is now designing insurance products specifically for franchises).

Also, funding for franchises as discussed in No. 20 will only continue to grow in my opinion as more venture capital folks learn that franchising can be a profitable business model when done well.

I encourage you to read the entire article if you are interested in franchising.

Iowa Specialty Business Court Off to Good Start

Back in January of 2013 I shared that the Iowa Supreme Court began a new specialty court for business cases. According to a recent article from the Des Moines Business Record it sounds as though the court is off to a good start. (Unfortunately the article is only available in the member’s section of the site).

The article has a breakdown of the first 10 cases in the program according to the article:

  • Damages over $200,000 included 8 cases
  • Injunctive or declaratory relief was sought in 5 cases.

And involved the following criteria:

  • Technology licensing agreement – 1 case
  • Internal affairs of a business – 6 cases
  • Business transactions – 7 cases
  • Shareholder derivative/commercial class action – 1 case
  • Commercial bank transactions – 1 case
  • Trade secrets, non-compete, confidentiality – 2 cases
  • Commercial real estate property – No cases
  • Antitrust or securities – No cases
  • Business Tort Claims – 7 cases

The main benefits I see to the program is that you have judges experienced with business issues. Another significant benefit is that one judge stays with your case throughout the life of the case. Lawyers quoted in the article expressed positive comments about the court thus far. Great to see it’s working well. I have called for such a court since 2008. The business court definitely gives Iowa an important leg up in serving Iowa businesses.

My Own (Informal) National Start a Business Day

I don’t know why or what’s in the water but November 17th must have been my own little national start a business day as I helped people form and start four businesses today. It is days like today that certainly keep you energized as a business lawyer and it is fun to see the excitement new business owners have for their mission!

Best of luck to these entrepreneurs!