Cool Tools for Employee Engagement

I’m fascinated by entrepreneurship. Value creation, strategy and tactics, great thinkers. My “books to read” list is a mile long. It’s a passion of mine.

As a professional services firm, the majority of the value we provide to our customers comes from human capital. Our collective knowledge as a company is our biggest asset and as such, I think a lot about how to protect it, nurture it, and grow it. When you rely on knowledge workers, it is extremely important to do everything you can to keep them engaged in meaningful work. I read recently that Maslow’s pyramid is now really just a square, with all sides being equal: material rewards, meaning, recognition, and impact.

We use a cool tool at Fine Point called Tiny Pulse to make sure I am making good decisions and building an incredible workplace. Rather than the eyeroll-inducing annual survey, Tiny Pulse reaches out to my team members once a week and asks random questions about how they’re doing, while protecting the responder’s anonymity.

Some questions are fun and irreverent, like “You just cracked open a fortune cookie about your company, what does the fortune say about your company’s future?” Some offer an opportunity for amazing feedback, like “What’s the one thing we’re not doing that we should start doing to be more successful”. And, of course, it asks, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?” every 4-6 surveys so that you can see a trend over time.

My favorite part? Every week responders can give “cheers for peers”, which is a great way for team members to recognize each others’ meaningful accomplishments or just to give a simple thanks.

It’s been a lot of fun using this product and it’s given me great insights about what our workplace is really like. When it comes down to it, my employees are really volunteers. It’s totally up to them whether or not they come back up that elevator tomorrow. Using Tiny Pulse gives me weekly feedback on how I’m doing – so I can make sure they do decide to join me again for another day of awesomeness.

And yeah, our Beer Fridays don’t hurt.

FPC Client C-Motive Reaches New Heights

New Motor Under Development by UW-Madison Spin-off

Article Written by: David Tenenbaum

Published by: The University of Wisconsin News

Date: September 8, 2014

 

A tabletop motor using an entirely new driving principle is under development at the headquarters of C-Motive Technologies, a start-up business that is commercializing technology from the College of Engineering at UW-Madison.

“We have proven the concept of a new motor that uses electric fields rather than magnetic fields to transform electricity into a rotary force,” says company co-founder Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UW. The distinction may sound minor, but it could solve a number of practical problems while saving money, he explains.

Actually, the concept is not entirely new: Benjamin Franklin and others described and built motors based on electrostatic forces back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but none achieved practical operation. Since the widespread adoption of electric motors a century ago, magnetism has been the only practical source of rotation. Magnetism is easier to exploit than electrostatic fields due to the properties of naturally occurring materials and simple engineering techniques. However, new advances in materials, mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing may enable electrostatic motors.

In 2011, while Ludois was finishing a Ph.D. thesis at UW-Madison, he realized that instead of relying on magnetic fields, he could achieve a similar result by manipulating electric fields to create a motor based on electrostatic attraction. The new technique, he realized, could deliver major advantages in weight, material cost, operating efficiency and maintenance requirements.

In the motor on display, nested stationary and rotating plates are held hairs-width apart by a unique air-cushioning strategy. An electric voltage delivered to the fixed plates creates an electrostatic field that attracts the rotating plates in a way that forces them to spin.

“A charge builds up on the surfaces of the plates, and if you can manipulate the charge, you can convert electricity into rotary motion or transfer electric power from one set of plates to the other,” says Ludois.

This type of coupling can be used “to power things that move without touching,” Ludois adds.

The breakthrough relies on electronics that precisely control a high-voltage, high-frequency electric field and fluid mechanics to keep the surfaces close without touching. “Nothing is touching, because you are using electric fields to couple the stationary and rotating parts,” Ludois says. “There is no contact, and no maintenance.

“Rather than magnetism, we are using the force that hold your clothes together when you take them out of the drier — electrostatic force. This technique can power anything that needs to move, and that you don’t want to touch while it’s moving.”

Because motors and generators are essentially mirror images of each other, the invention may first meet the market in the form of a generator for wind turbines, an application for which C-Motive Technologies received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for development and research from the National Science Foundation in 2014.

By saving weight and materials, and boosting efficiency, the new design should give the company a bottom-line advantage. The new design avoids the use of precious “rare earth” metals and substitutes aluminum for the more expensive copper found in magnet windings of conventional motors and generators.

When C-Motive was founded, Ludois and co-founders Justin Reed and Micah Erickson were all Ph.D. students. “It’s really hard to beat the world, especially when you start out as three graduate students,” Ludois says.

C-Motive has had its share of help from UW-Madison. Two years ago, the idea won two awards in the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition, run through the Wisconsin School of Business. C-Motive has also received $100,000 in seed funding from the Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship course, another School of Business resource.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation supported Ludois and his colleagues for patent protection on the discovery, giving them the leverage to pursue additional funding. After six months in the Metro Innovation Center on East Washington Avenue, C-Motive is now housed in an office/lab space near Stoughton Road in Madison to house its five full-time employees, including two of the three founders.

Ludois devotes his evenings to C-Motive, but spends his days in the academic world at UW-Madison.

“I remember as a student, everybody talked about the Wisconsin Idea, that the bounds of the university extend beyond the bounds of the campus,” Ludois says. “Looking ahead, I hope to be part of that ideal by translating my research as a faculty member into society at large. For me, on a personal level, that would certainly bring my efforts full circle.”

 

Article Courtesy of David Tenenbaum at the University of Wisconsin Madison News

Full Article: Please Click Here

 

RISE OF THE REST COMING TO MADISON

 

Silicon Valley…New York City… the start-up and business capitals of the US, but what about those smaller vibrant communities that have entrepreneurs lurking around every corner?  They don’t get as much recognition but they could have the idea of a lifetime.  Well that is exactly what Steve Case thought when he started his campaign and cross country road trip “Rise of the Rest.”  Rise of the Rest is a once in a lifetime opportunity for entrepreneurs in MADISON, Minneapolis, Des Moines, St. Louis, and Kansas City to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas for a chance to win $100,000 in investment from Steve Case.

Rise of the Rest will be held in Madison on October 6th at the Majestic Theatre in Downtown Madison.  The 3 part event starts with a Fireside Chat at 2:30 where entrepreneurs will start their journey by having conversation with Steve Case, Steve Clemons, and other innovators about their dream of starting their own business.  After the chat will be the Pitch Competition, where Madison’s brave entrepreneurs/start ups will compete and pitch their ideas in hopes of earning a $100,000 investment from Steve Case.  After the competition will be the final event: Rise Madison, where the winner will be announced and a start up celebration will commence.

If you think you have what it takes or you just want to attend the once in a lifetime event, head to: Rise of the Rest to sign up or RSVP!

Innovation can be anywhere, in any city, in any person.  It just takes one pitch to change your life, so why not let it?

 

ABODO Joins VaultWare’s Apartment Content Syndication Network

Article Written by: Virtual Strategy Magazine in Cleveland, OH (PRWEB) on August 25, 2014

 

MRI Software announced today that the Industry-leading ABODO is the latest company to join the VaultWare Apartment Content Syndication Network, a collection of best-of-breed companies and the most frequented Internet Listing Services (ILSs) in the industry. Featuring the ability to enhance the advertisements on more than 20 high-quality online advertising sources, the VaultWare solution empowers clients to streamline their marketing process while increasing their exposure to apartment hunters.

“At ABODO, our focus is on providing renters access to reliable and high-quality vacancy information, and VaultWare’s content syndication provides our users with the information they want,” noted Alec Slocum, CEO of ABODO. “VaultWare customers now have the ability to add and automatically update their listings so they can gain immediate access to the thousands of renters that are searching ABODO every day.”

MRI’s VaultWare Apartment Marketing Suite provides consumer-centric apartment marketing, leasing and market analysis capabilities focused on delivering an ideal online shopping experience that results in streamlined operations, highly qualified leads and more leases. VaultWare features automated content updates including current pricing and availability drawn directly from their property management software or revenue management system, which results in consistent content across the client’s VaultWare-powered online advertisements. Additionally, the solution encourages prospective residents to begin the leasing process while the prospect is most engaged by allowing them to reserve a specific, currently available apartment that fits their needs. With many VaultWare client’s experiencing lease conversion rates as high as 25% for requests-to-hold of specific, currently available apartments, to 50% lead to lease conversion rates for pre-qualified apartment reservations, the addition of VaultWare’s capabilities to ABODO provides mutual clients with a powerful tool that generates easily apparent results.

“We are very pleased that ABODO is partnering with us to better serve the apartment marketing industry,” said Stephen Baker, Vice President of Product Management at MRI Software. “Forming a close relationship with innovative companies like ABODO are crucial to the success of both VaultWare as a product and its users’ experience with the solution.”

For more information about the VaultWare Reservation System as well as the entire lineup of VaultWare Apartment Marketing solutions, please visit http://www.mrisoftware.com/vaultware-products. To learn more about ABODO, please visit abodo.com.

 

 
To Read More please Visit: Virtual-Strategy Magazine 
Article Courtesy of: Virtual-Strategy Magazine

FPC Client of the Week: SOLOMO

Social.  Local.  Mobile. 

 

The mobile-industry takes over again.  That is the belief and backbone for the Madison-based business SOLOMO, with their newest technology that allows your clients to interact with your business right from the palm of their hand.

SOLOMO, a business started by Madison Entrepreneur Liz Eversoll is a location-based information service that links it’s clients directly to their customers via smart locations with sensors reaching out to smartphones.   The company is built to link clients of all different backgrounds (Automotive, Hospitality, Retail, Event Management) to their customers in order to be able to interact, locate, analyze, and engage with one another.

With SOLOMO Smart Location, Event Planners are able to engage event attendees, increase top line revenue, improve vendor sales, provide detailed traffic analytics, and even offer exhibitors more mobile marketing.  Automotive Dealerships are able to engage vehicle shoppers, understand layout effectiveness, improve the customer experience, and even notify dealers of new customers.  Hospitality based businesses are able to reward on-location check-ins, tailor marketing to demographics of current guests, optimize employees and staff for peak performance, and even integrate location-based actions with loyalty programs.  Even the Retail industry can benefit by measuring digital marketing efforts on in-store analytics, increasing cross-sell opportunities through content messages, and integrating location-based actions with loyalty programs.  This technology can be integrated for any business and truly does offer everything you need.

So, if you are in the business why not jump on the SOLOMO bandwagon?  84% of our world is linked with a smart-phone, so why not engage the opportunity and see what your customers have to say?  SOLOMO technology makes that possible, right at the convenience of your customer’s smartphones.  Social.  Local.  Mobile.  These three words can change the face of your business forever, so why not let it?

To learn more and see how your business can benefit from the SOLOMO Smart Technology visit: Solomo Technology

 

 Photos Courtesy of: solomotechnology.com 

Revitalize your Business

Please read below to learn how to Revitalize your Small Business.  This informative and helpful article was written by a good friend of ours here at Fine Point: Scott Pfeil.  Scott is an excellent resource for businesses and his words can help in more ways than one.   So please read on, we are sure you won’t regret it. 

 

Revitalize your Business

By Scott Pfeil on July 10, 2014

As a small business owner or manager you are the heart of the American economy.  You face unique challenges/opportunities and risks while shouldering many varied responsibilities.  Do you have improvement ideas that you don’t get to as fast as you’d like?  Are you uncomfortable with an aspect of your business, but hope your strength in other areas will outrun the weakness?  Do you have the right people, doing the right things, with the tools, training and proper management for your business to run optimally?

Twenty-five years analyzing companies and business models in the stock market has shown me that the best companies frequently rethink, reform, and refocus their business — that is how they stay on top. And yet when your business is ready to “take it to the next level” as an owner you might be “running on empty.”  And this makes sense.  Being a Chief Operating Officer running the day to day operations of a small business has given me insight as to how difficult this can be.  As a business owner, you probably formed a company based around your particular strength and ideas, and then used your prowess, entrepreneurship, hard work, and ingenuity to put the other pieces in line.  In the process of putting these pieces together, have you worked so hard in your weak areas that you aren’t having fun anymore?  Are you working too much, delegating too little?  Are there too many mistakes when you do delegate?  Do you miss your niche, working at what you are best at?  Here is one way to revitalize your business.

Treating Humans as a Valuable Resource

Before forging ahead with more objective improvements, the key here is to make sure you have created the type of culture that you want in your workplace.  Learning and paying attention to what best motivates each individual and your team is an art.  If it’s not there yet, a purposeful and consistent approach to culture change is necessary to keep in the back of your mind as you move ahead.  This is best done as you tackle the more objective process improvements and together these two points of focus will allow you to optimize your business with staying power.  Why is this true?  Well, you can only do so much yourself.  In short, a winning culture releases more of the talents of your employees which is good for you, for them and for the business.

Sound business practices in HR for hiring, transitioning, training, evaluations, wages and bonuses, benefit plan design and communication are critically important.  Consistently giving employees the tools to succeed in each particular position, and making sure the right people are in the positions with the best fit may sound simple, but simply isn’t done well in many businesses.

Instead of cringing about the cost for training and updating practices, instead allow yourself to cringe about the cost of losing a valuable employee or not utilizing that person’s talents properly.  Doing HR right means happier employees (and management), lower turnover, and a better return on the investment you make in your people.

 

Re-Finding Your Niche

You add the best value to those around you, whether family, employees, customers, or strangers, when you are working in your areas of strength and having fun.  There is a reason that your business has achieved the level of success that it has, so focus on what you do best.  Take a deep breath here and consider the benefits to your personal wellness of hiring a consultant who can listen with confidentiality and without pre-judgments, to give you professional help to troubleshoot areas of weakness and do some work for you in those areas.  Hiring a consultant as a temporary employee is a low-risk way to complete some of your backed up or dreamed up projects and could be the key to you being able to spend time in your areas of strength, thereby revitalizing your energy for your business.  This might be just what you need to take your company to the next level.

Need help in any of the following areas? The author, Scott Pfeil at 608-239-8773, is the owner of Revitalogic, a business consulting company that specializes in:

*Business Strategy

*Process innovation and improvement

*Human Resources

*Operations Management

*Sales

*Negotiations with vendors, partners and customers

*Technology – More fully utilizing the resources you already paid for

*Finance Related – M&A, Banking, Accounting, QuickBooks as a management tool – working with Fine Point Consulting

*Other areas to be identified in our initial complimentary consultation

 

By: Scott Pfeil, July 10. 2014