Tag Archives: economic times

Successful Business Women Add Philanthropic Endeavors - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Three Successful Business Women Add Philanthropic Endeavors To Their Already Busy Work-Life Balance

Giving back to the community is an important component of being a true success in the business world. As the greatest minds in history have declared, responsibility is the companion of power and privilege.

Regardless of workloads or fluctuations in the economy, true business leaders — whether they are corporate executives or entrepreneurs — have acted as stewards of their communities. In recent decades, family life has been added to the mix, making the work-life- philanthropic balance even more challenging, especially for women. But it can and is done every day.

Jordan Rose is the founder and president of Rose Law Group pc, the largest law firm in Arizona ever owned by a woman. She is also a mother of two young boys, and for the past 11 years has been an integral member of the American Heart Association’s Arizona Heart Ball Committee.

Rose’s inspiration to pursue law came from her father, also an attorney, who loved going to work every day.

“I never think of it as work,” she says. “I love what I do, it’s the perfect fit for me.”

The perfect fit means having a team that shares her enthusiasm, work ethic and high standards, so Rose can have time for family and charitable pursuits.

“I wake up every day quite grateful that I have others around to help me do all the things I find tremendously rewarding,” Rose says.

What Rose finds rewarding is giving her time and expertise to not-for-profit organizations such as the Arizona American Heart Association, a group that for more than 50 years has been dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke — and subsequently poured millions of dollars into this community to support life-saving programs.

“My husband’s family has a history of heart disease, and I have a passion for making any small attempt I can at helping support the medical professionals who are currently researching a cure,” she says.

Rose’s legal and business expertise give her the ability to further support this cause by reviewing and restructuring contracts, so the Phoenix Heart Ball can maintain its low cost-to-fundraising ratio, while at the same time limiting any risk or exposure to members and donors. It’s a charity she loves and a business model she admires.

“I think for-profit businesses could learn a lot about motivating people and managing by shadowing the Heart Ball board,” Rose says.

And she has this advice for working moms who also want to serve the community: “Pick a charity that you have a passion for and you will be grateful, as it will make you happy to wake up and be able to give something back.”

Like Rose, Denise Resnik runs her own business. Denise Resnik & Associates is a strategic marketing and public relations firm she started 25 years ago. Also, like Rose, Resnik has a deep, personal connection to a nonprofit, in this case the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). In 1993, Resnik’s son was diagnosed with autism.

“We were told to love him, accept him and plan to institutionalize him,” Resnik recalls.

Wanting a better life for her son and other children with autism, Resnik used her knowledge and experience as a business owner to find a better outcome.

“I allowed my heart and entrepreneurial spirit be my guide,” she says.

Years later, what started as a mother’s support group is now the 18,000-square-foot Campus for Exceptional Children and a 10,000-square-foot Vocational and Life Skills Academy. Both are focused on advancing research and providing support for thousands of individuals with autism and their families throughout their lifetimes.

“SARRC is another full-time job for me and a major pro bono client for our firm,” Resnik says.

As for finding the work-life balance, Resnik says, “I layer many of my priorities and interests, like creating big ideas and plans, while hiking with friends and colleagues through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve with our son and daughter.”

Her business acumen helped her build SARRC, and in turn SARRC has taught her some valuable business lessons.

“Our board and staff at SARRC lead by example and demonstrate for us all what it takes to make our community a better place, and what businesses and individuals can do to forever impact our community and change lives,” Resnik says, adding that if you’re thinking about volunteering, even if your plate is overflowing, you’ll find a way to make it work.

“The return on your investment will likely exceed your expectations,” she says. “It certainly exceeded mine.”

Michelle Kerrick, managing partner of Deloitte, stands tall alongside Rose and Resnik in terms of the tremendous impact she’s making on the community. She too juggles motherhood, a demanding career and her passion for volunteering.

“My position at Deloitte has a strong market focus, so it can be a win-win-win for me, the firm and the not-for-profit,” she says. “I get the opportunity to meet other key leaders in our community, while also giving back.”

The organization Kerrick “gives so much back to” is Fresh Start Women’s Foundation (FSWF).

“I was inspired by the cause,” Kerrick says. “FSWF is all about women helping women and developing confidence and self-esteem.”

Kerrick knows that financial stewardship is key to success, so it’s no wonder her business, financial and risk management skills benefit a charity like Fresh Start.

“I started my board work with FSWF as the treasurer of the board, held a number of other positions and have also chaired the annual gala fundraiser,” she says. “I believe my background has been particularly helpful in these challenging economic times.”

In turn, her involvement with FSWF has had a tremendous impact on her life.

“When I meet women striving to improve their lives, it makes me more focused to lead a better life and be a better example to my daughter,” Kerrick says.

So although it’s not always easy being the perpetual plate spinner, Kerrick says it’s worthwhile.

“I want to make sure organizations like FSWF are available for the next generation of women.”


Jordan Rose - Rose Law Group pcJordan Rose
Rose Law Group pc

Charitable Organization: Phoenix Heart Ball
Favorite Quote: “Bring all your capacities to a situation and stick with it — apply all you’ve got to make fate unfold.” — Jim Balsillie, R.I.M.


Denise Resnik - Denise Resnik & AssociatesDenise Resnik
Denise Resnik & Associates

Charitable Organization: SARRC/Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center
Favorite Quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Michelle Kerrick - DeloitteMichelle Kerrick
Deloitte

Charitable Organization: Fresh Start Women’s Foundation
Favorite Quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Ghandi

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Earthfest Provides Free Resources to Teachers

EarthFest Provides Free Resources To Teachers

Teachers are desperately in need of assistance, especially during these tough economic times with budget cuts, fewer resources and larger class sizes. That’s why it’s important to get the word out about some exciting opportunities to assist educators, both personally and in the classroom.

Arizona teachers can apply for one of two full-tuition scholarships being offered by University of Phoenix and/or $5,000 in funding for environmental programs in their school, classroom or community through an EarthFest Education Grant made possible by STMicroelectronics.

Valley Forward Association has partnered with University of Phoenix to offer two full-tuition scholarships to Arizona K-12 teachers in an effort to expand its environmental education outreach. Each scholarship will allow a prospective student the opportunity to obtain a Master of Arts in Education (MAED) degree.

The purpose of the scholarship program is to provide educational opportunities to local teachers who have demonstrated sustainable practices in their classroom and want to continue to make a difference in their community. The scholarship application deadline is Oct. 22 and recipients will be announced by Nov. 12. To obtain a copy of University of Phoenix’s Valley Forward Scholarship application, teachers can visit valleyforward.org or phoenix.edu/scholarships.

In addition, Valley Forward recently announced $5,000 in grant funding for teachers in the 2010-11 school year to support projects that enhance awareness of and interest in environmental sustainability. It is the fourth consecutive year STMicroelectronics has funded this program.

Projects should focus on such topics as: energy, water, air quality, transportation, land planning, plants and animals or waste management. The deadline for submitting applications is Dec. 10. Applications may be mailed or emailed to info@valleyforward.org and projects must be completed by May 1, 2011.

These and other opportunities were offered in conjunction with the sixth annual EarthFest Educators Night, presented in partnership with Intel Corporation and the Helios Education Foundation. To learn more about what resources are available, visit: Environmental Education Directory.

Why does it matter? Because if we expose kids of all ages to ways they can contribute to a healthier environment, it helps ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Now’s The Time For Business To Streamline And Maximize Cash

Now’s The Time For Business To Streamline And Maximize Cash

How do strategic growth-oriented organizations find and exploit the opportunities inherent in any downturn? Recently, Ernst & Young surveyed 3,100 entrepreneurs around the world to discover the actions entrepreneur-led companies are taking to remain on course during the current economic times. Contrary to what you may think, the survey found that today’s economic environment has opened up space in local and global markets.

Strong business leaders are adapting to the difficulties in sourcing finance and maintaining liquidity, and understanding the pressures on their people, customers and suppliers. Change for everyone seems inevitable, and already some businesses are emerging as leaders in accelerating that change. What do market leaders need to do to be successful?

Despite the changes in the economic environment, net cash flow determines management’s focus. The dominant trend in the past six months has been an acceleration of management’s efforts to improve business performance. They are right to do so regardless of economic scenarios:

  • If the recession continues — or even worsens — then cash and access to credit will continue to be constrained and conditions will remain extremely difficult. The focus on relative performance will intensify.
  • If the rebound is already in sight — if there really are signs of “green shoots” — management needs to be prepared to act quickly. Typically, a rebound arrives with speed, giving management little time to respond.

Three elements are critical to an organization’s ability to react to future opportunities: an efficient operating model that maximizes your company’s strategic advantages, cost reductions that do not damage the organization’s strategy or customer’s experience, and a focus on cash forecasting.

A robust cash-forecasting process can create a “cash culture.” Improving cash awareness through internal procedures and policies drives an increase in accountability and responsibility. In addition, successful companies acknowledge financial concerns before they become a burden and make swift decisions when they need to be made.

Expand your customer base
A majority of entrepreneurs surveyed — 67 percent — are pursuing new market opportunities. But growth is only possible when companies have the required resources, and for now, this means cash. A strong liquidity position provides the basis for a wider array of financial choices to have available when business conditions improve, whether that means broadening a customer base, attracting and retaining people, acquiring strategic businesses or assets, or driving operational performance.

At the same time, entrepreneurs understand that some customers will probably fall away during tough times, and they reinforce procedures to manage these reductions or failures. When expanding your customer base, keep these three things in mind:

  • Understand whether your products or services are necessities or luxuries. Position yourself to help your clients through leaner times.
  • Focus on neglected or overlooked markets while building customer loyalty.
  • Manage your customers’ perceptions of your business.

Review tax position to uncover cash
Tax is between the third and the fifth largest expense for most companies, but only 23 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed review their tax strategies to reduce expenses and uncover cash. Government deficits and revenue needs are affecting global tax policy around the world. The recent fiscal stimulus package includes significant tax measures — in fact, tax measures comprise a larger share of the overall packages compared to spending measures, including:

  • Accelerated depreciation programs.
  • Carryforward and carryback provisions for net operating losses.
  • Adjustments to corporate income tax rates.
  • Enhancements to research and development tax credits.
  • Indirect tax changes.

While some opportunities are likely to arise from this, there are also many potential threats and a general tightening of enforcement and compliance efforts by tax authorities.

Focus on core skills
In being forced to reflect on the health of their businesses, entrepreneurs may initiate a transformation of their business model so it becomes significantly better adapted to tomorrow’s environment. They do this by identifying their core competencies and focusing on what they do best. Ancillary functions not aligned with key strategic goals can be considered as potential outsourcing targets, while divestment may be appropriate for service lines that are not aligned with the core business.

The survey of entrepreneurs suggests that, generally, there has been a pulling back of plans to outsource or to use shared service centers. Internal audit, tax and legal services and knowledge management are key exceptions where lack of in-house skills may force the decision. Companies may be reluctant to transfer responsibilities to a third party in today’s environment, preferring to retain control in-house. However, outsourcing may well provide the increased flexibility and cost reductions that business leaders are looking for. A credible case can be made for outsourcing non-core roles in order to safeguard the core, laying the foundations for a durable, flexible business model that will position an organization more strongly in a post-crisis environment of increased competition and tighter cost control.

Reshape your business
To broaden their customer base or enter new markets, many entrepreneurs see a marked increase in potential mergers and acquisitions at reduced prices. Their recipe: cautious raising of capital mixed with a renewed focus on having the right balance sheet and business model to capture acquisition opportunities. Their advice: Divest unprofitable units while seeking and investing in opportunities from the crisis.

These are times when new market leaders rise to the top. The economy is not a zero-sum game where one side must always lose to let the other win. Only if the majority of businesses improve will the economy turn around.

The views of the entrepreneurs surveyed reaffirm these messages and make one major addition — the need to act more quickly. Regardless of whether recovery is just around the corner or the clutches of recession risk are getting tighter, there is no time to delay improving your business. Accelerating the change is the only option.

Nonprofits struggling to provide services for those in need

The Charitable Challenge

The construction industry has faced more difficulties than any other in this recession. The industry lost 45,800 jobs year-over-year in September, the most of any sector in Arizona. Despite that grim number, many construction companies still are trying to give back to the community in any way they can. Hunt Construction is one of them.

When the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the poor, needed new vehicles to help with day-to-day operations, Hunt didn’t hesitate. The company essentially donated vehicles to the nonprofit by selling it two trucks for a mere $2.

“The construction industry, like so many industries in Arizona today, is facing a number of challenges. Having said that, I am just amazed at how generous they have been to us,” says Steve Zabilski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “The vehicles are pickup trucks that are in great shape and we use them almost daily in our various operations”

Hunt wasn’t the only one to step up to the philanthropy plate and help the charity during these difficult economic times. Another contractor, Gilbane Building Company, made St. Vincent de Paul a beneficiary of its golf tournament this past year, resulting in a $10,000 gift.

This generosity is just one example of companies’ ongoing commitment to philanthropic efforts despite a recession that has left the world reeling from its impact.

Recession reductions
The Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits conducted a survey of member nonprofit organizations in February 2009 about the effects of the economy from the beginning of 2008. The survey also included projections for 2009. The results found that “one-half of nonprofits reported that their revenues declined in 2008, and two-thirds said they expect revenues to be down further in 2009.” This equates to about 75 percent of nonprofits working with reduced budgets this year.

“The largest decrease in donations was from foundations, which decreased an average of 26 percent. That was followed by corporate donations, which declined an average 24 percent,” says Patrick McWhortor, president of the Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits. Individual contributions decreased approximately 14 percent.

Elaine Fogel, communications chair of the Arizona chapter of fundraising professionals, echoes these sentiments.

“I think that based on both anecdotal (evidence) and statistics, we are definitely seeing a downturn in charitable giving across the board. Locally, regionally, nationally, absolutely,” Fogel says.

According to the survey, on average, revenues decreased 19 percent in 2008, and nonprofits expect that number to decrease another 18 percent this year.

Organizations such as the Sojourner Center that receive funding from the government also have seen revenues shrink.

“Our losses really came from receiving a severe cut in our government contracts,” says Connie Phillips, executive director of the Sojourner Center, which helps families in crisis. “I anticipate in the state of Arizona we will continue to see funding from the government decrease. … If we lose even more of our government funding and have to pick even more from the philanthropic community, how do we retool?”

The Piper Notebook, a magazine published three times a year by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust states: “If life as a nonprofit has always been difficult in Arizona, the economic recession has further strained capacity. Nonprofits face lower revenues as government shrinks, fund endowments decline and individual contributions dip.”

Increased needs
With fewer resources but an amplified need for services, nonprofits are forced to make do with less. The recession has caused an increase in demand for a variety of services, with vital basic needs such as food and shelter high on the list.

“More than 80 percent of organizations saw demand for services grow in 2008 and 2009,” McWhortor says. “Of course, this issue is most concentrated with nonprofits who serve our most vulnerable populations — workers who have lost their jobs, homeowners facing foreclosure, homeless families and youth, people who are hungry. These issues will become more urgent in the coming months as further reductions in state funding for programs undercut the ability of nonprofits to serve the elderly, disabled and economically stressed populations.”

Merl Waschler, president and CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW), says thousands of individuals and families are turning to VSUW and the nonprofit network for assistance. The organization’s partner agencies also are citing an increased demand in several areas, particularly food and shelter.
The nonprofits face a wrenching conundrum: Demand is higher than ever due to the poor economy, but since the economy is bad, philanthropic organizations can’t get additional funding to meet their goals and provide the community with the services it requires.

Philanthropic struggles
Just as different industries were affected by the recession in various ways, so too were philanthropic organizations. While basic-needs organizations struggle to keep up, arts organizations face their own set of challenges during this exceptionally tough year.

“We were hit as aggressively as anyone. A lot of what you see at the foundation level and/or the corporate level, some of the emergency social service needs are kind of the priority, and rightfully so,” says Seth Sulka, director of development at the Valley Youth Theatre.

Sulka says the Valley Youth Theatre saw significant drops in both ticket sales and contributions and stresses that it’s important to remember about all types of nonprofits.

“We can’t forget about the arts and expect every organization to have the resiliency to weather such a storm,” she says.

As a private nonprofit contracted by the city of Scottsdale to administer city arts and cultural projects, the Scottsdale Cultural Council also was hit by the realities of the recession. The council encompasses the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale Public Art Program. It saw an approximate 22 percent year-over-year decrease of contributed revenue (from individuals, corporations and foundations).

“Like almost every arts organization, we experienced a loss of contributed and earned revenue as a result of the recession, which also happened to coincide with the renovation of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Because our main theater was closed for more than a year, we had already planned to operate on a reduced budget,” says William H. Banchs, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

The center continues to move forward and is implementing necessary changes to weather the economic storm.

“Throughout the season, we tightened our belts and focused on our mission and programming,” he says. “We made very personal, one-on-one efforts to engage our donors, as well.”


Photos from left to right:
Intel employees serve as e-Mentors to students at Scales Technology Academy in Tempe. They help youngsters build computer and communication skills. Photo Intel Corp.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty auctioned off one of his cars for charity at last year’s Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale. Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.

Stop the Spread of the Flu

What Businesses Should Know About This New Strain Of Flu Virus

The second wave of the influenza pandemic should be upon us in earnest soon. So far, the virus remains similar in severity to regular flu (although a disproportionate share of those seriously ill are children and young adults). However, it continues to mutate and there remain unknowns.

The one near certainty we have learned from history is that many more people than usual will contract this Novel H1N1, or Swine Flu, virus. We may be faced with at least one-quarter of us falling ill within the next few months.

The decisions you make as a business leader will impact your employees, your organization and your bottom line. I recognize that the actions of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health can affect your bottom line, as well. I can assure you that with every decision I make, whether it’s closing a school to disseminating our first few doses of vaccine, I am constantly balancing the health of our community with the economic repercussions of our actions.

We have been working for years to engage our business community in developing a continuity of operations plan for events such as this pandemic. If you have created such a plan, it’s time to take it out, brush it off and make any updates necessary. If you don’t have a plan, that’s OK. But it’s time to start thinking now about how this virus may affect your business.

Your role in this pandemic is to do your part in slowing the spread of this flu in your workplace, thus slowing its effect on your business. Consider these planning tips:

Policies for staying home when ill and for sending ill employees home
This really will make a difference in slowing the spread of disease. I realize that such absenteeism may be difficult to accommodate, especially during these tough economic times. But you should have less absenteeism in the long run if you keep sick people out of the workplace and away from your other employees.

Policies for parents
In addition, please accommodate your employees who are parents and must leave work to pick up their sick child from school, or who must stay home with a child who is ill or whose school has been closed. Our ability to slow the spread of this flu in the community hinges upon limiting spread in the schools.

Promoting good hygiene
We should all get in the habit, right now, of practicing good hygiene to protect ourselves and others by washing our hands, keeping our hands away from our faces, and covering our coughs and sneezes.

Promoting employee vaccinations
The vaccine for the Novel H1N1 should start arriving by late November. This vaccine has been developed in the same manner as our seasonal flu vaccine, and early indicators show it is a good match to protect us from this new strain of the flu.

Arizona Business Magazine November 2009Because this vaccine is rolling out in small amounts at a time, we are providing it first to those who are having the most severe complications from the Novel H1N1 flu, and those who spread it most to others: pregnant women, health care workers, parents and family members of children under 6 months, children aged 6 months to 24 years and those aged 24 to 65 with chronic health conditions. Employees who fall into these high-risk categories should get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available.

As we enter November, we should also be receiving additional seasonal vaccines. Encourage employees to get themselves and their families vaccinated. The more people who are immunized, the better chance we have of keeping the virus from jumping from person-to-person-to-person. There also is good data to show that bringing a vaccine provider into the workplace can be very cost effective for many businesses. If your employees do not have access to the vaccine through their health care provider, log onto www.fluaz.org for vaccine locations.

This event is changing rapidly. You can stay informed, as well as access tools needed to educate your employees, at www.StoptheSpreadAZ.org (click on Maricopa County). Please do your part in stopping the spread.

Valley Metro Light Rail

Awarding Sustainable Excellence

On Saturday, September 12th Valley Forward held its 29th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards Gala. With Fox 10 News’ Troy Hayden as master of ceremonies for the event, there was never a dull moment.

Title sponsor SRP and Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, put together another spectacular celebration of sustainability. More than 150 nominations came in for this year’s awards — more than any previous year — showing that despite difficult economic times, the public’s commitment to sustainability has not wavered.

METRO Light Rail was the 2009 President’s Award (Best of Show) recipient, further highlighting the achievements of the newest addition to the Valley’s transportation system. METRO Light Rail was also honored with a first-place Crescordia Award in the Livable Communities, Multi-modal Transportation & Connectivity category.

Crescordia is a Greek term that means “to grow in harmony,” and that’s the overall message that came across during this year’s awards. Each acceptance speech reiterated the importance of responsible economic growth, and keeping the environment in mind for a brighter future for our state.

Check out the full list of winners here.

It was a great experience to see all of the amazing projects, and the progress Arizona has made toward a more sustainable future. An added bonus was being able to mingle with a crowd of esteemed professionals, as well as community and business leaders.

Along with the award winners, Brossart announced AZ Big Media / Arizona Business Magazine’s blog partnership with Valley Forward. She will be a guest blogger on the AZ Green Scene once a month, so check back soon as we’ll have some great posts coming our way.

www.valleyforward.org

Photo Credit: www.valleymetro.org

Oath

Thunderbird School Of Global Management Continues To Deliver In-Demand Education

Managers consumed with maximizing short-term profits and the value of their stock options have destroyed billions of dollars in shareholder and taxpayer money. A culture of greed lies at the root of this economic meltdown that has seen banks collapse, markets tank and unemployment rates soar.

The aftershocks of this global disaster continue to claim victims, and companies around the world are scrambling to brace themselves for the uncertain times ahead. The survivors will be those who are properly equipped to navigate the economic crisis with strong, ethical leadership, innovative global mindsets and sustainable strategies that will solidify their long-term viability and create lasting value for their organizations and the communities they serve.

With this in mind, the Thunderbird School of Global Management continues to create innovative ways to deliver relevant and in-demand education to companies and executives in a market where the need for continuing education is great, but company resources are slim.

Thunderbird Corporate Learning, the executive education division of the school, already has begun tailoring its programs to help companies and organizations navigate this financial crisis, including a new global leadership certificate program called Leading and Managing in Turbulent Times. This program helps global leaders understand what elements of management have changed during the economic downturn — and what things never change. A 12-week session began in March, and a three-day concentrated version took place in May.

The program, taught by Thunderbird faculty members who have extensive first-hand experience working with global managers, will help students broaden their understanding of global business issues that are transforming the international landscape. The program will arm students with useful decision-making tools for increased job performance, and help them build more effective cross-cultural relationships by giving them insights into how the economic crisis is affecting different cultures, regions and markets.

The program will also take topics such as corporate social responsibility, international marketing, organizational culture and financial management and relate them to the economic crisis.

Another new executive education program will debut June 9. Communicating and Negotiating with a Global Mindset is a three-day course that will help working professionals develop strategies for influencing people from other cultural backgrounds. Participants will learn their own global mindset profile and develop an understanding of their own negotiating preferences. The need for such skills has been amplified in the global economic crisis as companies scramble for competitive advantages.

Helping social sector organizations get through the crisis is another area in which Thunderbird has extended its offerings. The Thunderbird Social Sector Leadership Program conducted in March with the support of a grant from the American Express Foundation, reached out to nonprofit, governmental and nongovernmental organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the International Rescue Committee and the Grameen Foundation.

The five-day program guided participants on how to develop new leadership skills in these tough economic times with training in leadership, sustainability, strategy, brand management, fundraising and innovation. The program, designed solely for a group of nonprofits, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, is the first executive education program of its kind for Thunderbird, and the school is hoping to use it as a model for similar opportunities in the future.

Keeping in mind that times are tough and resources are tight, Thunderbird has launched a free, interactive Web site and quarterly executive newsletter, which are both designed to help busy global executives navigate this economic crisis. The Thunderbird Knowledge Network is an interactive, multimedia forum that gives executives open access to the expertise and insights of Thunderbird’s faculty, alumni and other corporate executives around the world on the latest, most relevant global business issues and trends, including the global recession. This content is delivered in stories, columns, videos, podcasts and blogs, including my blog on global leadership. Each posting in the Knowledge Network offers an opportunity for reader comments and feedback.

Executives also can tap Thunderbird’s global business knowledge through the school’s new Executive Newsletter, a free electronic newsletter that is distributed quarterly to busy working professionals, including the school’s corporate clients and alumni.

executive education

During Hard Economic Times, Executive Education Helps Workers Keep Marketable Edge

It may be hard to believe, but in tumultuous economic times, executive education is somewhat recession proof — at least as far as employees are concerned. People who have lost their jobs have more time to go back to school, while those who are still employed may feel the need to enhance their skills.

University administrators and instructors see no less interest in educational opportunities as the economy spins downward. Even businesses that have downsized continue to pay a portion of tuition costs for those employees who remain. But at companies where training and development programs are among the first to be eliminated, experts suggest such moves are shortsighted.

Andy Atzert, assistant dean of the Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business and director of the school’s Business Center for Executive and Professional Development, does see a diminished demand from companies for customized executive education programs.

“The reason is that they are very visible expenses, a big line item that a company can slash when desperate,” Atzert says. “They’re shifting back to open enrollment. They’re not necessarily cutting back on education funding for individuals. The money is distributed through departments and it’s a less visible expenditure.”

Employers benefit from executive education programs in today’s economy because the skills of employees who remain expand. For example, an engineer who is promoted to fill a vacancy might need to acquire knowledge about marketing.

Strange as it may seem after layoffs, another benefit is employee retention.

“When a company lays off people, it worries about the effect on people who remain,” Atzert says.“You’ve pared down, and you don’t want to lose more employees. That’s one of the reasons for not cutting the education budget.”

Atzert describes education, and that includes executive education programs, as being “a counter-cyclical business.”

“What commonly happens in an economic downturn is that when there is not full employment and not a lot of jobs out there, people seek opportunities to retrain,” he says. “People who are employed polish up their resume a bit, just in case. Insecurity causes a person to make oneself more competitive.”

Mike Seiden, outgoing president of Western International University, agrees that historically, education is recession proof.

“We don’t see any abatement coming to us for degree programs,” Seiden says. “When people are losing their jobs, they recognize that a degree is important, and when times are good, companies support their employees by providing educational opportunities. I don’t see any change in that, but I say that with a little bit of caution. This economic climate is a lot different from anything we have experienced in the last 40 to 60 years.”

While Arizona’s three state universities are facing budget cuts, and some smaller niche colleges are encountering economy-related problems, Western International, a forprofi t private institution that is part of the Apollo Group Inc., is not feeling a negative impact, Seiden says. Employer subsidies seem to be holding steady.

“But if unemployment increases substantially,” Seiden says, “and companies become more hard-pressed, who knows what will happen?”

Both ASU and Western International University have executive education partnerships with the Salt River Project. At ASU, the Small Business Leadership Academy provides CEOs of small and diverse businesses with a 10-week program designed to help take their businesses to the next level.

The first class, which consisted of 11 SRP suppliers and five SRP business customers, completed the program last November. A second group will start taking classes next August. Offered one evening a week at the ASU School of Business Tempe campus, the classes focused on such topics as business strategy, negotiations regarding terms of contracts, employee retention and corporate procurement.

“They learn what we look for as a procurement organization, so when they get my requests for proposals they know what to be prepared for,” says Art Oros, SRP manager of procurement services. “They have already shown tangible savings. The improvements helped them to maintain the edge they need in these times.”

The companies that participated are small businesses, many of which are minority owned.

“We had good diversity — all ethnicities and cultures,” Oros says.

At Western International, SRP helps to subsidize its own employees’ education as they pursue degrees.

“A company’s ability to help provide an education for its employees is paramount in today’s world,” Seiden says. “It not only helps ensure that the company will retain its employees, but it will improve productivity.”

Paul Palley, who teaches economics and statistics at the University of Phoenix, says his classes naturally turn to discussions of current events.

“The subject of bailouts is something that is brought up a lot,” says Palley, a city of Phoenix economist. “Students don’t really understand what’s going on. Bailout is not the best word. In many cases, it represents an investment — government purchasing equity. Sometimes students feel not enough is being done, and sometimes they feel too much is being done. It changes from student to student and from day to day.”

Kevin Gazzara, who recently retired from Intel, where he was program manager of management and leadership, is senior partner of Magna Leadership Solutions and University Research Chair for Organizational Behavior at the University of Phoenix. He has developed a statistical tool that enables employers to link training and development programs with business results.

“One of the first things to go in difficult economic times is training and development,” Gazzara says. “From our perspective, it should be one of the last things to go. Many organizations utilize training, but don’t know if they are getting a return on their investment. In tough economic times, I tell organizations to restrain from the urge to cut training to save some relatively small dollars.

“As managers are being asked to do more with fewer resources,” Gazzara adds, “raising their levels of skills so organizations can compete becomes essential, and the only way to do that is having the right training.”

Earth and climate change

Arizona Businesses Brace For Greenhouse Gas Regulations Under Western Climate Initiative

As the Arizona Legislature convenes, a Democratic governor heads to Washington, and a Republican governor takes the reins, state businesses find themselves deeply concerned about what will happen to Arizona’s environmental policy and the consequences associated with these unprecedented and troubled economic times.

Many legislators want Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who soon will take over the governor’s office, to rescind executive orders entered by outgoing Gov. Janet Napolitano. Rumors also abound about efforts to eliminate the Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). Meanwhile, the regulated community is left wondering what will be next for such large-scale regulatory efforts as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which was largely championed by Napolitano and ADEQ Director Steve Owens.

The WCI is a collaboration among seven U.S. governors and four Canadian premiers that Napolitano and others created to reduce greenhouse gases in the region using a market-based, cap-and-trade system. The member jurisdictions include: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Together, these seven states and four provinces represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy and 70 percent of Canada’s. Thirteen other U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces have joined as observers.

Arizona entered the WCI in February 2007, following reports indicating that Arizona’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were increasing. There were also predictions that by 2020, the state’s GHG emissions would increase by nearly 150 percent over the 1990 levels if Arizona neglected to reduce them. Arizona has played a vital role in the WCI since its beginning, with Owens serving as co-chair during the time the initial policy was developed. The first major accomplishment occurred with Owens at the helm, when the WCI released its design recommendations for the Regional Cap-and-Trade Program in late September.

Political changes and the design itself indicate that the WCI likely will affect Arizona regardless of whether the state stays in or exits the WCI. For example, as applied to electricity, the regulations will apply to the first jurisdictional deliverer (FJD). For sources within WCI jurisdictions, the FJD is the generator. For power generated outside the WCI jurisdictions (including federal and tribal lands) for consumption within a WCI partner jurisdiction, the FJD is the first entity that delivers that electricity, over which the consuming WCI partner jurisdiction has regulatory authority. Thus, if Arizona remains in the WCI, regulations will apply to generators of electricity; if Arizona leaves the WCI, any business or entity that seeks to deliver electricity to any jurisdiction that is a member will be subject to the regulations. In addition to electricity generators and suppliers, the WCI will regulate other sources of emissions such as industrial, residential and commercial sources, as well as industrial fuel combustion at facilities and transportation fuel combustion.

Details still must be developed, but the initial emission threshold triggering regulatory compliance is estimated to be 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. The design was tailored to specifically allow the scope of the cap-and-trade program to expand over time to add new sources to the system, raise or lower the cap as necessary, and to integrate it into other programs.

This may be critical sooner rather than later, as many expect a federal program from President Barack Obama’s administration. Certainly with 20 percent of the U.S. economy regulated under WCI, in a region with critical energy supplies and high levels of emissions, the WCI is poised to become amodel. Additionally, calling this the Western Climate Initiative is a misnomer since Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are included, extending the WCI boundaries to the Atlantic. In fact, the WCI covers the largest geographical area of any regional initiative. Moreover, with Napolitano in the Obama cabinet, Owens is predicted to land a federal regulatory role, and the WCI publicly states that it plans to promote and influence federal GHG emission reduction programs consistent with its design principles.

For now, Brewer is taking a cautious approach, noting that she currently plans to remain involved to get information and see what can be done in Arizona, but that given the economy, she is not yet ready to take a position on the planned cap-and-trade program. If Arizona remains in the WCI, mandatory reporting will begin with measurement and monitoring this time next year. The start date for cap-and-trade is Jan. 1, 2012. Regardless of whether Arizona is in or out of the WCI, a new regulatory regime now appears imminent and the only real questions moving forward seem to be how to influence outstanding issues and prepare for compliance and increased costs.

Susie Baldwin of Arizona Greens

Arizona Greens Brings Artificial Turf To Arizona

Arizona Greens
Don Baldwin, founder and president
Susie Baldwin, founder and COO
Est. 2005

Taking the plunge to open your own business is always a difficult endeavor, but for Don and Susie Baldwin, the leap turned into a wildly successful venture with Arizona Greens. In fact, in 2005, only three months after launching their synthetic turf and putting greens business from their home, the couple had so many appointments that artificial turf was stored in the rafters of their garage.

“The phone rang so much we could not even answer it fast enough,” Susie Baldwin says.

Arizona Greens specializes in complete landscaping and hardscaping with an emphasis on low-maintenance, low-water synthetic turf for both residential and commercial properties.

Lifelong Arizona residents, Don and Susie have witnessed the dramatic changes to the state first hand. They realize water conservation is more important than ever, making synthetic grass a wise alternative for many.

“In this day and age of trying to be green and trying to conserve, this is just such an easy way to accomplish all those issues at one time,” Susie says.

In addition, due to numerous landscaping requests from customers, the Baldwins added a dual commercial and residential general contractor’s license to the company’s resume.

With the incredible success of Arizona Greens, one would never guess that the Baldwins previous careers were miles away from the landscaping industry. Don had worked as a long-distance truck driver and Susie was in corporate banking.

“The subtotal of our experiences was taking care of our yard,” she laughs.

Yet, they persevered and quickly learned the ins and outs of owning a landscaping business. The rapid growth of the company forced them to address numerous issues, including problems with adequate staffing and maintaining positive customer relations during delayed installations.

Now, with the tough economic times, the Baldwins are facing their next big hurdle in entrepreneurship.

“The first three years we were in business was cash flow heaven … then things changed virtually overnight,” Susie says. “In light of what has happened with the economy, it is imperative to look as forward as possible.”

Though the nonstop action of the early days of the business has slowed significantly, Don and Susie are positive that Arizona Greens will weather the storm and learn a very valuable lesson along the way. The energetic couple has learned to balance their personal and professional lives without a hitch, and they look to the future to forge ahead with their work.

“We just want to continue to make an impact on our environment and keep it as pure as possible,” she says.