How Much Transparency Should You Have in Your Company With Employees and the Public?

Proper communication in a company can never be underestimated enough when wanting to nurture a corporate team working on a major goal. As much as you may think companies in America work on a level like Apple, far too many consider such team alignment as a pipe dream. And that mindset comes strictly from employees who realize their leaders need to think about being transparent and open about everything in order to establish better teamwork. Also, customers are starting to establish more personal relationships with companies and expect to know everything about them in order to make this happen.

It's all part of a wider picture showing how much a sense of transparency benefits a company today. Some polls have shown recently that companies with some level of transparency end up cutting their turnover rates exponentially. They also increase their productivity levels by almost a quarter.

With proof of this, CEO's of companies may finally move corporations away from the days when the top brass seemed far separated from the workers who actually got things done. What paths are they starting to take now that can benefit your own company in making sure everyone is on the same page to meet definitive goals? The same applies in letting customers know everything about you to give a new sense of personalization.

Making Goals Clear

Your employees may know part of what they need to do when coming to work every morning. But what's the true overall goal of your company, and how can you reach it? By holding regular meetings with your entire staff, you can make it clear what the main objective is so everyone can see the light on the horizon. In a case where your staff might be too large, video conferencing can help give a more personal communication method so they know what's really going on.

Without making a goal understandable (or even achievable), you'll have unmotivated employees who may be secretly throwing in applications to other companies to move on.

How Often to Communicate?

Once you have a company goal in everyone's mind, you have to keep it going as a daily process. No matter that you have one major goal in mind, you have to break it down into portions and reach certain points before leading to the next level. When doing this daily, each day can be highly productive and also invigorating. Especially when your goal is overly lofty, it could take a year or more of intense daily transparency in order to make sure everyone does their part in heading one step closer to goal realization.

Being Transparent About Internal Issues

Far too many companies keep it quiet from employees if any financial issues or other internal concerns exist that need addressing. If you want to create a true team that works together, everyone should be aware of the company's financial health. In fact, employees will rally even more when there's a threat of going under and a goal exists that inspires everyone. Keeping these elements known only to head brass threatens the well-being of everyone and thwarts the transparency you were seeking out for the company.

Being Transparent with Your Customers

Whether you're a company that's large or small, being transparent about most everything will help establish the more personal customer-company relationship. People want to know about your background, how things are produced, and what your company goals are. With so many people incorporating products into their lives that help solve personal problems, they want to know whether your company is truly conscientious or just feigning any care about their customers.

Telling your back story during your marketing campaigns, as well as being up front about your success and failures, can help you keep established customers in your corner for years. That's going to be important when you might be in trouble and need to depend on your customers more than ever in order to survive.


Continue Reading →

Visiting the Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Paauilo, HI: An Interactive Experience

The days when travelers were merely conscientious observers are waning. Nowadays, the predominance of intrepid trekkers expects, and often demands, total absorption with their destination, even if it means getting their hands dirty.

Travelers to Hawaii are no exception and perhaps that is why more and more Island businesses are offering "experiences" as opposed to traditional "look but don't touch" attractions.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Paauilo is one such business. Considered to be the only commercial vanilla farm in the entire United States, it offers a unique set of "experiences", including those that put visitors smack dab in the middle of the action, dirty hands and all.

What follows is a brief description of just some of the experiences offered by the Hawaiian Vanilla Company as well as information on how one may go about making reservations.

Experiences Offered

There are a variety of unique experiences that await visitors to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.

The experiences include farm tours, vanilla tastings, cooking demonstrations, chef's tables, cooking classes, horticulture seminars, volunteer opportunities, teas, brunches and dinners.

As of early 2011 there are two Hawaiian vanilla experiences that are priced right around $25; vanilla tastings and upcountry teas.

The 45 minute Vanilla Tasting includes a vanilla infused beverage, vanilla infused desert, educational lecture and tour of the vanillary. It is offered Monday through Saturday at 10:30 am as well as by appointment for large groups.

The equally as inviting, 1 hour Upcountry Tea is offered Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 3:00 pm and is inclusive of vanilla infused teas and desserts.

Travelers that are employing a more leisurely Hawaiian itinerary may wish to consider partaking of the two hour, Hawaiian Vanilla Experience which includes a complete vanilla infused repast, lecture and walking tour of the vanillary.

It is one of the more popular tours offered by the Hawaiian Vanilla Company and is superlative for those that desire an immersion course in all things vanilla.

Those travelers that literally want to get their hands dirty may want to consider one of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company's horticulture experiences.

Participants in select horticulture experiences are given the opportunity to engage in such activities as cutting, cultivating, fertilizing and transplanting vanilla plants within the company's greenhouses.

Advance Reservations

Advance reservations for any of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company experiences may be made by contacting the company staff either by phone or online.

Would-be tour participants should be mindful of the fact that tour prices, times, policies and elements are subject to change and as such should be verified directly with the Hawaiian Vanilla Company's staff prior to trip departure.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company
43-2007 Paauilo Mauka Road
Paauilo, HI 96776

Additional Information

Travelers that would like to garner more information about things to experience while in Hawaii should log onto the state's tourism authority website.

State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, "Hawaiian Vanilla Company" State of Hawaii Dept. Agriculture
Hawaiian Vanilla Company, "Tours" Hawaiian Vanilla Company
The Hawaiian Islands, "Media Communications" Hawaii Tourism Authority…

Continue Reading →

Building a Successful Company Culture for Your Small Business

Building a company culture for your small business is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure its success, and yet it is a strategy that is often overlooked by small business owners. Consider these six tips for building a successful company culture for your small business.

Create a Mission Statement. A mission statement may seem unnecessary or even trivial for your small business, but it can play a very important role by in creating a company culture by setting forth clearly and concisely the values that you want to drive your business. Take your time writing a mission statement and give it a great deal of thought. In particular, think about how you want your employees, customers, and vendors to view your business. Do you want your business to be known for its integrity, its customer service, its innovation and so forth? If so, say that in your mission statement.

Communicate Company Values to Employees. Be sure that every employee knows the company mission statement and understands the importance you place on the values it conveys. You might want to hang a copy of the mission statement in a prominent place in the office, give it premier placement on the company website, and even have it printed on business cards and stationery.

Personally Reflect Company Values. Having a mission statement and saying it is important are meaningless if you don't reflect the company values in your actions. If superior customer service is a company value, show that in how you treat customers every day. If you do, your employees will follow your lead and this value will become part of the company culture.

Reward Actions That Reflect Company Values. You can reinforce your company values and help to foster a solid company culture by being sure to reward behavior that is consistent with and supportive of those values. Whether it is verbal praise, a pat on the back, or a small bonus, acknowledgement that an employee is living the company values will communicate more clearly than anything else you can do how important these values are to you.

Enlist Employees in Decision Making When Possible. One mistake that many small business owners make is authoritarian decision making. While there certainly are decisions that only the owner can make, there are several reasons why taking into account employee feedback whenever you can may pay off for your small business.

First, in some instances, employees may have information or perspectives that you don't and, as a result, their input could help you make better informed decisions.

Second, when it comes to decisions that directly affect employees, such as those related to benefits programs, knowing employee preferences could actually result in more cost-effective decisions and higher employee morale.

And third, when employees believe that their opinions are valued, they are likely to feel more invested in the company culture and happier working there.

Work and Play Together. Create opportunities for employees to socialize as a group. Whether you order pizza for lunch for the entire office once a week, organize a company softball team, create a tradition for celebrating employee birthdays or employment anniversaries or come up with your own unique activity, finding ways to help employees relax together can help to create a greater sense of camaraderie and loyalty to the firm and strengthen your company culture.…

Continue Reading →

Independence Day: In the Company of Uncle Sam

As every American boy should, I have very fond memories of Independence Day celebrations growing up. My parents usually loaded up my sisters and I for a trip to the county fairground. The 4th always came at a good time for a bored kid on summer break from school. After a month out of class you begin to start running out of things to do, at least in the 80's and 90's before the internet and gaming was a given for every most household. For a small town in Northwest Georgia , the community where I was raised had a fairly respectable gathering every 4th of July and the fireworks shows could hold their own with most any I've seen since. As memorable as these times were, even combined, they would never come close to matching even one of the next two experience I am about to share with you.

My senior year of high school, I joined the Marines. I would be attending Boot Camp at Parris Island , South Carolina a few weeks after graduation in May of 2000. I arrived on the Island June 26th before midnight, and just over a week later our newly introduced drill instructors would get us into some semblance of a formation and "march" our sorry tails over to the famous Parris Island parade deck, where 12 weeks later we would graduate. That night, however, we were still just filthy, rotten scum of the earth recruits. The first few weeks are the ones that make you miss home, and cause you to ask yourself questions like "what the hell have I gotten myself into?" As we sat on the hallowed asphalt with "left hand left knee, right hand right knee, back straight, mouth shut," we all faced straight ahead over the marshes that separated us from the rest of humanity. These same marshes that looked towards Buford would, this particular night, provide us all with a taste of home and fill us with a sense of pride possibly unmatched to this point in our young lives. Soon after dark, the Parris Island Marine Band began to perform beautiful versions of patriotic and military songs that we all knew by heart. They kept right on playing while one of the largest and most spectacular formal fireworks shows I have ever seen went off over the swampy waters to the west. It was quite an experience, and for a short time I was home in North Georgia eating a funnel cake at the Cherokee Capital Fair Grounds with my family. If only for a few moments, I was home.

Normally this would be where the story ends, but I was not done with Uncle Sam, and he was far from done with me. By 2004 I was out of the Marines and trying my hand a college. It wasn't going so well, and I was bored. I joined my local Army National Guard unit and after a few months in, as expected, we received orders to Iraq . I had, for some reason, wanted to go. Not for some blind sense of patriotic duty, or for love of country, but more for adventure and other selfish reasons. By the summer of 2005 the 1/108th Armor Battalion found itself smack dab in the middle of the "Triangle of Death" operating in the area in and around the cities Mahmudiyah, Latifiyah, and Yusufiya. It was dangerous and we wouldn't make it out without significant losses. I ended up a member of the battalion commander's PSD (Personal Security Detail). We did a little bit of everything, and rarely was it safe, but we often made it fun and bearable. I would spend this Independence Day in the company of my brothers on Forward Operating Base Saint Michael.

We had quite a nice spread, for a place that only served two meals a day in a tent secured with ply wood, and somehow the higher ups had managed most of the food luxuries from home. We had steaks, beans, potatoes, hot dogs, burgers with all the fixins. The only thing we lacked, of course, was ice cold beer. EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), unknown to …

Continue Reading →

The Gilliam Candy Company

The Gilliam Candy Company has been around since 1927, and was established in Henderson, Nevada. They have some of the most popular hard candies in the United States of America. Although you may be asking yourself if you have ever heard of them before, not knowing that you have.

Remember those candy sticks that didn't cost you much at the drug store when you were a kid way back when? Maybe you had their infamous lemon drops that look like they had sugar sprinkled on the outside but turned out to be so sour. Whichever of their many flavors of hard candies you have tried, you have obviously had something of theirs but do not recall their name.

The typical 6 oz bag of candy you would buy of the Gilliam candy is now around $1.99 per bag at most places across the U.S. It is noted on the back of the bag of lemon drops that a serving size is 5 pieces, which is 11 servings a bag. That is 55 pieces (supposedly) in each bag. Each serving is 60 calories. There are 15 grams of carbohydrates in them and 15 grams of sugar as well.

The lemon drops made by the Gilliam Candy Company are made up of sugar, corn syrup, citric acid, artificial flavor and FD&C; Yellow #5.

The bagged flavors you will find are horehound, lemon drops, wild cherry, cinnamon, root beer, watermelon and licorice. The root beer flavor is actually shaped in the form of a barrel. There are many other flavors, but these are the most popular ones. They also make these same flavors into candy sticks, which are individually wrapped, and can be bought individually or in decorative tins.

These wonderful treats make great stocking stuffers or party favors. Kids will eat them up as they can be addicting. You may want to set them out in a decorative candy dish for all to enjoy as people come to visit. These candies will last for a long time after being exposed to air. Although they will tend to stick to one another if left unwrapped.

The next time you are in Cracker Barrell or some place that sells hard candy take a look at the brands they have. More than likely you will find that Gilliam is the most popular brand of candies they sell. You can even find them at Silver Dollar City in various stores. Why, even Six Flags amusement parks have them as well. These wonderful treats are hard to pass up once you have tried a few of them.…

Continue Reading →

In the Company of Misery

A writer's life is a journey through the shadows of obscurity; an existence that transports the mind and the body beyond the edges of darkness. It is particularly provocative among those writers who are chosen by the occupation; chosen by the imposition of the right-side of the brain whose audacity overrides a parent's vicarious high jacking of their child's life; the exchange of the dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers or professional sports figures for a life that is often misunderstood.

Within the dark and misconstrued landscapes where a writer finds a home, all is not evil or miserable. Darkness is necessary. There are questions only darkness can answer. Ideas, like seeds germinate in the dark and will burn if exposed to light before its time. Eventually, the light is allowed its contribution to the fruit of the labor. Sometimes the dark is simply asking for light, asking the holder of the quill, laced in colorful ink, to illuminate a thought, a moment or a life; to be the medium by which the world finds what is lost and discovers its balance within the chaos. It is a proudly worn burden.

I am not afraid of physical darkness; but a visitation of spiritual or emotional darkness creates paralysis within me. I am powerless to its timing and blind to the outcome. Its immobility is most disheartening when I am without the means to exorcise it from those I love.

The emotionally dim rollercoaster that has been my life has made me passionately practical. It seems impractical to join others in their misery. Yet human sensibilities, disguised as empathy, rarely resist the offer to dive right into the pool of another person's anguish. In those moments I question my usefulness. I would gladly take on the pain and anguish of everyone I love, rather than hold their hand in the dark or be relegated to the perimeter of their lives as a witness, conspirator or accomplice to their sorrow; I would wear their despair as a coat of arms for the sake of their happiness.

Writers by and large are martyrs; the self-less advocates of peace and prosperity, often times at the expense of their own. We are a vehicle by which civilization pushes past its anxieties and fulfills the promise of its purpose. We are vexed by our own humanity, yet we are willing to assume the weight of the world for the world's sake.

In the Company of Misery

When the pain of darkness approaches
accompanied by despair's nightfall;
surrender to a writer, a troubled soul un-appalled.

With quill and ink
your troubles become their concern
then channeled to secret crevices
delicate parchment on which your sorrows burn.

Wearing your trouble as weathered fleece
carrying your worry as a cross
whether heartbreak or heartache;
we seek
and speak peace
so no soul is ever lost.

© 2011 Camille Gray. All rights reserved.…

Continue Reading →

What You Should Know About the Company Before Your Job Interview

Before your job interview, you can and should research the company for which you are interviewing. It is likely the interviewer will be looking to fully understand why you want to work for his/her organization and having some knowledge about the company and its products or services can go a long way towards proving your motivation is in the right place. Furthermore, some of the interview questions you are asked may be designed to assess whether you've done your homework when it comes to learning about your potential employer. Imagine your embarrassment when the interviewer asks you to comment on a company achievement recently in the news and you are unable to respond because you were not aware of the event. In addition to learning about the company, you should also be "in the know" as it relates to recent industry trends and hot topics. For example, if you are interviewing for a position at a large banking institution, you should probably be aware of how the recent economic issues have impacted the banking industry. Advanced preparation and research will ensure you feel confident during the interview process and answer in a way that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of your field.

When it comes to learning about a company, one of the best places for information is the company website. If you don't know their web address, you can easily locate it by conducting an online search. Once you are on the company website, you'll likely see the same types of information displayed, regardless of the company. Commonly posted information includes a general company overview, a description of products or services (how the company makes money), recent news or press releases, the company mission and vision statement and a description of company values. A close review of the company website allows you to gather information directly from the source. Once you've absorbed this information, take some time to see what else you can find on the internet. For example, what are the business journals and other trade publications saying about the company for which you plan to interview? Has the company been in the news lately and if so, why? Who are the company's competitors? What is the latest industry news?

During the interview, let the interviewer see the hard work you put into learning about the company by integrating your research into your answers. This demonstrates that you've invested time in preparing for the interview. Also, it shows that you have sufficient interest in the company and can apply your skills in a way that fits with the company's products, services, culture or strategy. When determining which candidate to hire, you can be sure the interviewer will factor in your ability to see the big picture within industry and your knowledge of the company's role in the marketplace.…

Continue Reading →

When Should I Take My Company Public?

An entrepreneur often launches a business with the idea that one day he’ll take the business public. The question then becomes: When is the best time to take a company public?

A business owner most often takes his company public when he needs extra capital for expansion. If he attempts to go public with the business in a desperate move to gain capital for the business to survive, it’s often the wrong move.

The Security and Exchange Commission addressed the issue of when/if to take a company public in its publication: Should My Company Go Public? According to the SEC, “When your company needs additional capital, going public may be the right choice, but you should weigh your options carefully.”

Generally, the best time to take a company public is when:

—The business needs money for expansion, not to survive;
—The business has the initial money needed to take the company public properly;
—The business has adequate to staff to administer a public company and the/or the expansion process; and,
—The business is on strong footing in the marketplace and going public would not jeopardize that growth.

It Takes Money to Make Money
The first two issues covered are intertwined as they involve money. A company can go public in a limited way. With a limited public offering, a company can raise money while spending a minimal amount for basic registration fees. When a company goes public (fully) the registration fees increase, so if a company’s aim is to go public, it has to have the money necessary to pay the fees associated with the move.

Since taking a company public involves additional costs and legal obligations, the business owner must thoroughly understand the process. That involves accountants and lawyers and lots of paperwork. All of these involve increased expenditures, so again, if the aim is to raise money for a fledgling business, it’s defeating the purpose.

If the purpose of taking a company public is to attain working capital, particularly if the business is in its infancy, business owners have other options to consider. It may be wiser to apply for a loan from the Small Business Administration. Another option the SEC recommends is “selling securities in transactions that are exempt from the registration process.”

Beyond the money aspect, taking a company public involves changing the very nature of the company in terms of management. Here are a few of the obligations of a publicly traded company, according to the SEC.

–The transition from sole proprietor or partnership to public involves increased legal obligations. If the business owner fails to meet those obligations, he can be held liable legally.

–If the company is taken public and involves shareholders, those shareholders will want information on their investment. They have to know the company’s financial condition, upcoming costs, legal obligations and the general financial status.

–From a legal standpoint, when a company goes public, it must function within certain parameters that a sole proprietor doesn’t have to adhere to. An owner who takes his company public loses the ability to act on gut feelings. Shareholders are involved, and they may have a say in the dealings of the company. That costs the business owner flexibility to act on current market conditions quickly.

–A publicly-traded company costs money to maintain. There are regular meeting which means the owner must have someone taking minutes and translating all that information into a written form that can be viewed by shareholders. It takes time away from the actual business and it costs money in extra manpower to keep up with the legal obligations.

The decision to take a company should not be taken lightly. Before a business owner makes that decision he should consider the personal, financial and legal ramifications of such a move as it will follow the company and its founders for the life of the company.…

Continue Reading →

Can Management Dictate Company Culture?

In recent years, there has been a great deal written and discussed about various company "cultures"-the culture of a company being the combined and shared belief and value systems within an organization. The company or organization culture influences how individuals behave and operate, as well as the process with which new employees become acclimated to the corporate or business "scene." Many people believe that a company culture evolves over time and once it is established, it is tough to make drastic changes. This is not to say that the culture is stagnant or cannot change, however. Sometimes, management or owners attempt to create or dictate what the company culture will be with varying degrees of success.

If the values and beliefs of management are cohesive with those of the work force, the influences on company culture may not be an issue. For example, if management decides that open communication and excellent customer service should be key elements of the company culture and good communication channels already exist, as well as dedicated employees who strive to keep customers happy-then there shouldn't be an issue. If, however, management SAYS that the company culture includes open communication but does not create avenues for that or if the reality is that employees comments and requests fall on deaf ears-then there can be a problem.

The company culture IS what is happening and it exists in the genuine workplace setting. If the management team wants to change or influence this, then it needs to be implemented over time and actions need to match mission statement and the "words" used to describe the values and belief systems. If management declares that it values employees, the actions of management need to reflect this stated value. Employees will not respond well if there is a disparity and overall morale and productivity will be affected.

If the company or business has an existing culture, it is really impossible for management to come in and declare or dictate a different set of values and belief systems. New companies or departments will have a better chance of "creating" a culture that is dictated by management since there won't be the working against the status quo.…

Continue Reading →

The Knott Company

Recently I was thinking back on the first job I had, at a place called The Knott Company. It was a small 'family owned' business. The business involved the carving of knotholes into figurines. After I had worked there a couple of years, the owner, Tigh Knott, thought that the company name wasn't descriptive enough and that business was suffering, so he changed the name to The Knott Knothole Company. Business improved and things started looking better.

As the years rolled on, it was decided that his oldest son, Don Knott, would help run the business and the company name was changed one more, this time to Knott & Knott Knothole Company. Our largest competitors at that time were the Carve Knothole Company owned by Clay Carve and the Sande 'n' Shoo Knothole Company owned by Sal Sande and Tu Shoo. They owned thirty percent of the market share but were increasing that with every year. It was during one particularly profitable year that the worst thing for us happened, the Carve and the Sande companies merged. They formed the Carve & Sande Knothole Company and the following year owned over fifty percent of the market. Tu Shoo decided to keep his share of the company and formed the Shoo Shoe Shop.

Don Knott was starting to become irritated, with what he perceived, as his father's old views on the knothole business. He would constantly be having arguments with him about 'modernizing' the business. Tigh Knott would have none of this nonsense and it came to a head with Don quitting and forming his own business.

Trying to compete against two giants in the industry was hard and Don was trying to pull in some of his old clients. But he was also trying to distance himself from the old company. He called his new company Not The Knott & Knott Knothole Company. Tigh's company was losing so much work that he decided to bring his only daughter into the business and renamed it the Knott, Knott & Knott Knothole Company. Don Knott struck back and renamed his company Not The Knott, Knott & Knott Knothole Company. However, at this time the Carve & Sande Knothole Company decided to take on another partner, Billy Buffe who had risen through the ranks and had shown great insight into the knothole business. The new company was christened Carve, Sande & Buffe Knotholes. It was about this time that I left the business and joined a company that was using new technology to make figurines out of driftwood, the Burns Driftwood Company.

The knothole business has suffered in the intervening years and with the passing of the founder Tigh Knott, the businesses soon merged and formed the Not The Knott, Carve, Knott, Sande, Knott & Buffe Knothole Company and, from what I hear are still do a small share of the industry.…

Continue Reading →