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A Memorable Island Getaway

With the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference now in the books, I’m reminded of why this is such a can’t-miss event for so many Michigan politicians and business and community leaders. The value of the conference is in its ability to facilitate networking and relationship building. It’s not just an opportunity to take the temperature of the business and political community, but a chance to try and understand what’s coming next.

Many of the discussions held at this conference lead to (or at least foreshadow) important trends that become clear over the next few years. If the tenor of the conversation at the 2013 iteration was any indication, key issues in going forward will revolve around state taxation and regulation, specifically the details of how municipalities across Michigan will comply with changing business and regulatory mandates coming out of Washington. There was a great deal of discussion about the need for clarity in the timing and direction of how the state is going to handle Medicaid and the new health care exchanges. The lack of certainty is tough for businesses, and we’ll need to hone in soon on some concrete details and final solutions as to how heath care reform will be handled by the state.

I also heard continued discussion about the future of the city of Detroit. What the city will look like in the wake of the EFM (Emergency Financial Manager). Mackinac is an opportunity—in many ways a unique opportunity—to have those kinds of conversations about these important issues with a group of people who may not be in one place at one time in many (or perhaps any) other venues.

Any time you can bring business leaders, politicians and media figures together, it makes for interesting conversation. In fact, some of those off-the-record conversations were very compelling: candid discussions and unfiltered perspectives that simply wouldn’t happen with a camera or a microphone present. As a result, this is where compromise can really happen, and where people on both sides of the aisle can meet in the middle. There is traditionally somewhat of a negative connotation to the notion of a “backroom deal” (there’s an implication is that it involves something shady), but the reality is that in today’s highly charged political climate, off-the-record meetings and informal discussions are a vital way to drive policy forward and craft actual solutions.

Speaking of which, the Detroit Chamber released its annual post-convention “To Do” list for the year ahead, and that list is packed with ambitious and worthy goals that Michigan businesses can (and hopefully will) support:

Detroit Chamber of Commerce To Do list

  • Convene businesses and community colleges to better link the talent needs of employers with community college program offerings.
  • Expand the successful “lessons learned” trips to U.S. cities (e.g. Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.) that can help inform the ongoing renaissance in Michigan’s major urban centers.
  • Expand upon the cyber security lessons learned at the Mackinac Policy Conference by developing and executing efforts that help inform the business community of 21st century cyber threats.
  • Coalesce the regional business community to support comprehensive immigration reform that helps drive economic growth and a pilot program in Michigan.
  • Promote the Detroit region as a growing and vibrant IT and entrepreneurial hub.
  • Commit to celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit—its successes and its failures—at the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference.
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Categories: Corporate Social Responsibility, The Industry
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Aiming Hire

I was both pleased and proud to see some of our recent success here at Powerlink recognized recently in Crain’s Detroit Business. I’m especially pleased that the May 26th article, entitled Staffing firm to hire 75 as revenue grows, focused on a particular point of pride for us: our recent hiring efforts in the City of Detroit.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry in this space: “Where you are has a great deal to do with who you are” and we are a Detroit firm, through and through. Hiring local talent not only “strengthens the neighborhood, strengthens the city and strengthens the company”, but it also helps “residents and professionals become personally and professionally invested in their city and their work.” All of this hiring is largely in response to what we project to be significant revenue growth in 2013.

As the article explains, many of our existing Powerlink customers, such as the Henry Ford Health System and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute have been increasing business with us in recent years, and that continuing trend has created growing demand for expanded Powerlink services those clients and professional partners have come to rely on. I am quoted in the Crain’s piece as saying that “When we see growth, it’s good news for the city and the region” and that “Expanding our contract and staffing services with current clients is a testament to the relationships we’ve built with these local leaders and the exceptional services we provide.” I stand by both of those statements, and I think our ambitious 2013 hiring plans are a testament to the fact that demand for Powerlink services continues to grow.

Categories: Business Success
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20/20 visionary

It’s not uncommon to see experts in virtually every industry prognosticating and predicting about what the next 6 months will look like, or the next year, or even the next 5 to 10 years. But those detail-oriented forecasts miss the point a little bit. While it’s always important to think critically about what the future holds—and to make informed, strategic, and calculated preparations for the future—predicting with precision exactly what tomorrow will look like is actually far less important than simply asking the question. In other words: when you make a specific prediction, you run the risk of getting it wrong and costing yourself time and/or money, but if you instead commit yourself to the process of regularly considering about what tomorrow will bring, you will be better able to prepare your business for any eventuality. Anyone can make a forecast. Not everyone is prepared to adapt and evolve swiftly and successfully to a changing professional landscape.

What do we see on the horizon? What is changing? What is coming? What are we preparing for? While we don’t have the answers, we still need to ask them. Whether you know the “answer” or not, it is important to recognize that these questions are not rhetorical: they are intended to get you thinking critically about your business, and about how you are positioned and prepared for what’s around the corner.

This process helps you focus on whether or not your company is prepared for inevitable changes in the marketplace. It gets you thinking about essential questions like “are you flexible enough to make big changes when necessary?” and “will you be able to recognize those changes when they begin to happen?” These are the kinds of questions that should be regularly discussed at a strategic/leadership level. Understand that while a prerequisite for success tomorrow is success today, anyone who thinks that their current business model is going to work indefinitely is kidding themselves. You will not be able to continue to be successful by staying where you are at now and doing things the same way. So ask those tough questions, and remember: don’t predict—prepare.

Categories: Business Success
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It’s Getting Hot in Here

Here in Southeast Michigan, the arrival of spring is always a welcome respite from the frigid winter months. In Facilities Management however, every season comes with its own checklists and challenges: items that must be addressed now before the next change of seasons is upon us. As we begin to engage in spring preparedness, ensuring that air conditioning systems are functioning properly is essential; AC inspection and maintenance is at the top of the list of basic summer preparation that needs to be performed for all commercial buildings.

While the thermometer has not yet hit the red zone, there are important actions we can take now that will help assure proper operation of this equipment when it is needed in the coming season:

  • Inspect HVAC equipment for damage, paying extra attention to rooftop units that may have been damaged by ice and snow or vandalized during the winter
  • Inspect/change air filters
  • Check the evaporated drain pan and condensate piping for blockages
  • Inspect (and clean, as necessary) all evaporator and condenser coils
  • Inspect and lubricate all dampers and bearings
  • Inspect fan shafts for wear and repair as needed
  • Inspect and replace, as necessary, all fan belts
  • Inspect all coils and piping for leaks
  • Inspect fan blades and fan guards
  • Inspect and tighten all wire terminals
  • Where possible, inspect oil levels in unit compressors

Reminder: when performing the maintenance and inspections procedures above, safety is of the utmost importance—all lock out/tag out procedures need to be followed at all times.

Remember that if the power to the compressor was turned off, power must be turned on for at least 24 hours prior to placing it into operation to prevent possible damage to the unit.

The bottom line is that a little sweat now can save you a lot of sweat in August: performing the preventative maintenance procedures listed above will go a long way towards ensuring that your and your clients’ cooling systems are in peak working order, and that the equipment operates properly and efficiently during the coming summer months.

Categories: Business Success
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Your best hiring choices may be right next door

I have long been a vocal proponent and a strong advocate for hiring close to home. For companies based in or operating out of urban environments, hiring in the inner city should be an important piece of your overall staffing strategy. To be perfectly clear: this is not charity—this is simply a sound business decision. Investing in the surrounding community benefits all businesses and all families. One of the biggest mistakes that business owners and entrepreneurs make is assuming that they can somehow separate their professional environment from their physical and cultural environment. Where you are has a great deal to do with who you are, and not hiring from the surrounding community is not only making the mistake of overlooking a large pool of local talent, it fails to take advantage of the natural connections between people and places. By creating stronger bonds between businesses and the surrounding communities, you can also help instill a growing sense of pride and investment in the region, helping residents and professionals become personally and professionally invested in their city and their work.

In a city like Detroit, with so much history and potential, and such a strong sense of community and a powerful sense of place, that inner city hiring mandate should be even more urgent. When you hire people in the inner city, it strengthens the neighborhoods, strengthens the city and strengthens the company. It allows local residents to bolster their social, personal and financial security—in many cases it allows them to become homeowners and to subsequently reinvest in the community. One job helps one family, yes—but, like a stone thrown into a pond, the ripples of prosperity and investment can lead to more opportunities and greater earning potential. A rising tide might not lift all boats, but if you give everyone a fair shot at building their own boat, you’ll be well on your way to having your own fleet.

Categories: Business Success, Corporate Social Responsibility