Thursday, December 18, 2014

Game On. With college bowl season upon us, consider how to build your corporate dream team.

To be successful, every team needs to develop solid fundamentals, follow a smart playbook, employ a talented coaching staff—an all-star recruiting classes doesn’t hurt—and the free agent market is always a good source for adding talent…

I could write an entire post using cheesy game-day references that link business and sport. But I won’t. The truth is that there are many parallels that can be draw between competitive athletics and business; and I’ve read a number of articles about the benefits of hiring former student-athletes (or at least, looking for new-hires who possess some of their key attributes).

Consider that your business—no matter your market or industry—is only as good as its people. It follows, then, that as business leaders we need to attract the best and brightest. But how do we find them? I’ve read quite a bit about what researchers tell us about birth order (and how it influences future success): Many point to the firstborn child as more conscientious, ambitious and aggressive than their younger siblings. These firstborns are over-represented at Harvard and Yale; and more than half of all Nobel Prize winners and U.S. presidents have been first born.

A similar-type argument can be made for recruiting student-athletes: These are the college students who, in addition to their studies, have developed excellent time-management skills; have learned how to deal with losing—and how to bounce back; maintain competitive drive and determination; understand how their roles and responsibilities effect the team; and are extremely disciplined and dedicated. Isn’t that the type of employee we all want working for our team?

We want people who are driven, dedicated and talented—but also balanced. It’s that type of level, even-keel attitude that can keep us all moving forward, for the win. 

Best of luck!

Read the Fast Company article about hiring student-athletes

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Here’s to your health- Mustaches in Movember remind us all to take care of the important stuff—and encourage our family and friends to do the same

During this past month, the global Movember Foundation challenged men to grow moustaches to raise awareness about, and funds for, men’s health programs—particularly prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental illness. I participated and went full-on no shave with a beard and moustache.

Other than simplifying my morning routine, Movember has taught me a few important lessons:

#1. We all need to be more informed—for the sake of our own health and for those we love. Here are a few stats:

• Testicular cancer is the most common cancer found in young men age 15 – 35.
• About 15 million American adults are diagnosed with depression each year.
• Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer found in men in the United States. And in 2014 alone, 233,000 will be diagnosed with the disease.

#2. We all need to get checked. Based on the above data, we all need to make our health a priority: Now is the time to schedule checkups and encourage our friends and family to do the same.

#3. For those of us who are in relatively good health, we should count our blessings. During this past year I have seen close friends and colleagues deal with debilitating illness and health-related issues. In some of these cases, it’s something that I never saw coming. And that’s the scary thing—most of us don’t dwell on our health, until either we, or someone close to us, loses that vitality.

So it’s fitting that this Thanksgiving season has me again reflecting on the many things in my life that I’m thankful for—and my health tops that list. But in order to make the hairy Movember effort worth the itch, I need to move beyond working out and eating healthy. I need to get checked.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Wishing you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It’s better to give... The benefits of nurturing a philanthropic corporate culture

When we were kids, my mom made us finish all of the food on our plates—and as many of you can probably relate, she’d remind us that there were kids in the world who didn’t have anything to eat. Even so, we weren’t feeling so lucky to have broccoli sitting in front of us. Fast forward a few decades, and while so many things have changed, there are others that remain much the same. 

It’s a startling statistic: Here in Northeast Ohio, one in six people is food insecure (i.e., they don’t know where their next meal will come from). The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is one of the agencies that is responding to that need. They served 39 million meals in 2013 alone. Recently a group of us from Shamrock headed to the food bank to serve meals. And while I feel so blessed to be able to help and lend support, I’m even more proud that it wasn’t my idea.

We have this dedicated team of people at Shamrock who spearhead such community involvement efforts, providing all of us here with opportunities to serve. They meet monthly and discuss ways that we, as a company, can help in our community and even beyond. Having the discipline—and the desire—is what has helped to make philanthropy a core element of our corporate culture at Shamrock.

What’s important to our employees’ hearts is what’s important to us as a company: That’s always been who we are and how we operate. But being philanthropic is very personal. I think what has made our efforts at Shamrock so successful is that we take everyone’s input and ideas and passions—and then we provide opportunities for our employees to plug in and join in where they feel most compelled to help. 

As with any effort, there has to be leadership by example for it to really succeed. And we have that here. All of us at Shamrock—and at every level—take pride in being a part of our community efforts. It’s a source of camaraderie. The result is that, as a group, Shamrock has been able to make a big difference in the lives of many people who are in need. It’s a pretty satisfying feeling—and it’s also motivating.

If you’re looking for ideas to help get your own community involvement program off the ground, send me an email and I can connect you with some of the people here who do it best.

And if you’d like more information about the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, click on the link below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Safety first. In this age of security breaches and computer hacks, we’re wise to take steps to protect our personal data and that of our customers.

Have you ever Googled yourself? I have; and I’ve also run other test searches about myself. The amount of personal information, or data, that’s out there floating around in cyberspace is mind-boggling. And I know enough to know that the data I see, and have access to, is only a fraction of what exists. 

Data is a valuable commodity. In business, we use data to make smart decisions about marketing, ultimately putting it work to better position our brand, redirect our advertising dollars, drive sales, and so on. 

In the black market world, hackers bypass most of the data that we use for marketing and reach straight for personal financial data. We’ve all heard about the big ones—major retail hacks and healthcare system leaks—but what about the smaller breaches that don’t make the daily news? Even if it’s silent, the threat is there. Just as we take steps to protect our own personal information, it’s our obligation to do the same for our customers by having systems in place to protect data.

At Shamrock, we’re aligned with a host of resources that manage payment processing, data control and security services. Based on each customer’s specific industry requirements or business applications, we match the appropriate providers who then customize solutions that work to secure their data and operating systems. What we’ve learned about securing data, regardless of market or industry, is that the best offense is a good defense.

In light of recent threats, we’ve talked with these vendors about proactive steps we can take to shore up the data security effort on all fronts; following is checklist that one of our partners provided that’s well worth sharing. It highlights five key security items:

1.    PCI Training. Company policy should mandate PCI training for employees to ensure that proper procedures are followed when dealing with electronic payments.
2.    Advanced DUKPT (Derived Unique Key Per Transaction) card cloaking. DUKPT methodology eliminates the risk for card cloning.
3.    Encrypted Key Pads. Encrypted key pads enhance security of manual card entry.
4.    Implement EMV at POS. As of October 15, 2015, every merchant must have 95% implementation of EMV devices to avoid liability for fraud, penalties and fees.
5.    Maintain Certification. Ensure networks and equipment are maintained with quarterly scans and updates.

If you’d like to read more about a defensive security strategy, the link below takes you to a whitepaper that provides a closer look at a layered solution to data security.

Responding to New Threats in Card Security

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Creatures of habit. Back to school, back to routine: Now is a great time to take stock of daily habits—and make changes.

We all have our routines and habits—both good and bad. For most of our kids, the summer routine of late nights and lazy mornings is about to come to an abrupt end with school back in session. While we’re helping them make that transition, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to take a look at our everyday routines and then make changes as we see fit.  

One of my favorite books is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; it takes a look at why habits exist and how we can transform our habits to make life changes. Duhigg studied successful athletes, CEOs, ministers, etc. and he found that by focusing on patterns, it’s possible to make self-discoveries. It was interesting to me that most of us don’t spend time analyzing our daily routines.  For the most part, we don’t even realize the actions or activities that have become our everyday habits—I know I didn’t before I read this book.

Duhigg breaks down the habit discovery process by the cue (or the trigger), the routine, and the reward. Here’s an easy example: For a coffee drinker who enjoys a cup of coffee on the drive into work every morning…the cue is getting in the car; the routine is stopping at Starbucks; and the reward is the extra caffeine kick. By identifying the cue—and replacing it with something else—we can shape change in our daily habits.

Of course, it’s not easy; change of any kind takes awareness and discipline. It’s a process. And it requires repetition: When our actions are repeated over and over again so much so that they become second-nature, that’s when we’re able to make a true transformation. 

The idea of creating change in routine doesn’t have to focus on bad habits—it can be positive, too. And it can also be related to a goal (I want to lose 50 lbs. or I want to sell $1k this year). Say you want to grow your business by creating loyal, raving-fan customers. You might get into the habit of following up with every new customer with a hand-written note (which is a unique touch) and returning phone messages within 24 hours—these are great examples of habits, that once established, can help you work toward achieving the reward or goal.

Putting a plan in place is the first step. The real key is first understanding your patterns and then committing to make the needed change or action.  The reward will happen—you just need to be disciplined enough to commit and follow through.

Good luck!

For more about The Power of Habit: 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Visual content is king. Tim weighs in on current social media trends

Love it or hate it, the social media movement is here to stay. It’s hard to imagine life before “friending” and “selfies” became common-speak. It was 10 years ago that Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. And now, fast-forward to 2014: Facebook has 1.15 billion active users. It’s hard to wrap your mind around that kind of growth, and even more, that kind of groundbreaking invention. Facebook—and the social media sites that have followed in its path—have become an everyday essential. Americans are posting, tagging, liking, and pinning—on average, we’re spending a whopping 3+ hours a day on social media sites. Whether or not you consider yourself among those average users, it’s undeniable that social media activity has become deeply ingrained in our everyday lives—and as marketers, we’re wise to identify ways in which to capitalize on that opportunity channel.

The most recent buzz surrounding social and online media is all about the pervasive power of
pictures: The incorporation of visual content is ranked among the top social media trends for 2014. In a recent article published by the Social Media Examiner, the value of visual content is summed up nicely: “images can significantly enhance a brand’s marketing objectives by generating more customer interest and prompting prospects to take desired actions.” In other words, the adage rings true that a picture is worth a thousand words: In today’s real-time world, we simply see it, like it, share it.

Clearly, there is power in the simplicity of sharing an image: Photo-based sites have enjoyed a recent
surge in popularity. Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram each gained more than 10 million visitors in 2012 alone. Data posted by Mediabistro shows that users spend more time on Pinterest (1:17 minutes) or Tumblr (1:38 minutes) than on Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ combined.  Check out the statistics below (again, from Social Media Examiner)

It follows, then, that incorporating visual content into your social media strategy is a key driver to your marketing success. A few options that you might consider:
•    Add high-quality images to your blog posts
•    Share real-time photos on your company’s social media sites
•    Include infographics and memes in your social media posts
•    Link photos shared on social media sites back to your website
•    Video is important, too (YouTube is the second largest search engine and Vine is experiencing significant growth in 2014) so consider video posts on your social media sites, as part of email campaigns and on your website

Always, a brand-centric media strategy is important to ensure that no matter the content—visual or otherwise—your brand image is consistent across all channels for more powerful, influential marketing campaigns.

I’d be remiss not to remind you to follow Shamrock…

Facebook Twitter Youtube Linkedin Blogspot

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Good Reads. Tim’s picks for industry magazines & websites (and technology that makes them more accessible)

Paper or electronic. Tablet or desktop: our generation is all about options. We’re fortunate to have a host of format choices that make information and content accessible—and convenient. I tend to bounce back and forth between different mediums; and I’m always looking for new tools/channels that make it even easier to gather and share that information. Here are a few resources that top my list:

Fast Company magazine. This insightful pub gives readers a look behind the curtain at some of the top organizations in the world, focusing on innovation and best practices that help to grow and sustain business. From marketing to technology to creative, it’s all in there. (Fast Company was named 2014 Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors.)

Inc. magazine. If you’re looking for smart advice, innovative strategies and efficient tools to help grow your business, this is an invaluable resource. This magazine covers it all from end to end: hiring the right people, PR strategies, franchising tips, expanding into international markets, how to master SEO. Great application for any size business:

Flipboard. I use this app to access most of my everyday content. It’s essentially a personal dashboard or magazine that you build to include your favorite publications, blogs and social networks. It’s easy to navigate and provides a streamlined solution for staying connected to news, sports, businesses, people—all in one place. If you aren’t familiar, check it out at

Finally, while my role at Shamrock has shifted to cover a broader business scope, sales is still in my blood. And because Shamrock is a sales-driven company, I am always looking for new tips and strategies to pass along to our sales reps. I’ve found that perspective is important—and if you can look at sales from another person’s vantage point, there are powerful lessons to be learned. Here are my top two sites (with associated blogs):

Sales Caffeine. Jeffrey Gitomer's weekly sales e-magazine, Sales Caffeine provides motivation, tips, trends and more.

Sales Buzz. Online sales training tools: This sites offers interactive online phone sales workshops and an insightful blog that is a great read for sales reps and managers in every industry.

If you have any go-to business publications, sites or blogs you’d like to share, please pass them along. I’m always looking for another great resource.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Retirement Reflection - Bob takes a look back at his accomplished career, including his 32 years at Shamrock.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years? For most of us, our career paths are unpredictable. And I mean that in a positive way. Looking back, I realize that my journey took a number of twists and turns that enabled me to learn and grow; and to build a successful company with a unique culture that continues to attract generous, talented people—and that today, makes me incredibly proud. It’s a script that 30 years ago, I would have never had the foresight to write, but one that’s even more fulfilling than what I could have imagined.

In 1971, I was getting ready to graduate from Ashland College with plans to go into international banking. But after graduation, and about one month before my wedding, I registered for the draft and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Corps. During my physical, I was diagnosed with a medical condition that kept me from serving. So here I was, two weeks before my wedding day, with no job. My search uncovered a sales position at Moore Business Forms.

This job was out of my comfort zone—I had no formal sales experience, I didn’t like getting up in front of people, and I wasn’t polished in terms of one-on-one, look-you-in-the-eye business interactions. But the long and short of it is that I was blessed to be with this company because they positioned their sales force to succeed by giving them the training and tools that they needed. That training shaped and furthered my sales career. 

In the forms industry it was all about timing—if you were there at the right time you could close the sale; business forms was a “convenience” sale. And so I learned very quickly the value of customer service. You had to give the client a reason to buy from you—and not from the competition. I remember coming to the conclusion that it was my decision to wake up and provide service. Or not.

My advantage was that my dad and my grandfather instilled in me a strong work ethic. As an athlete, I didn’t like to lose (which is why athletes are always attractive new-hire candidates). And I understood that how well you prepare, then dictates the outcome of the sale. It was my job to be over-prepared, and that’s exactly what I did.

Fast forward 8 years and I was calling on bigger clients and working with high-end systems people where we weren’t just printing business forms, but also writing the software and designing the systems that supported them. At that point I think as a company, we lost sight of where we were, and our level of service began to slip—that allowed the competitors to catch up. 

My mentor, Neil Bennett, had left Moore to start his own print company: Shamrock Business Forms.  And as I saw things moving in a different direction from where I thought they should be, I connected with Neil and then later left Moore for Shamrock in 1982.

Back in the day we used to have a saying, “Give me a sales order and a mirror.” In other words, if you say it, you do it. Securing the sale was all about follow through. And that’s what I did—what we did –at Shamrock.  From the beginning, we’ve focused on the customer. We listen, gather information, take requests from the customer and then make good on it. Shamrock has always invested in its customers. That’s how we’ve grown. It’s how we’ve gotten bigger, better—and it’s why we’ve become so diverse. Shamrock spent about 9 or 10 years buying new businesses, expanding into new market segments, investing in new technology that helped our clients solve their problems—it was all about driving and delivering greater value and separating us from our competition.

As I look back and ask what has made Shamrock a success, I can tell you: It’s our people. We have a business model at Shamrock that is entrepreneurial and because of that we attract very driven, self-starters. As a company, it’s our job to make sure they have the tools they need to be successful. So whether that’s premium items or data services, Shamrock has to feed that salesforce. In doing that we’ve also built our supply chain. We have aligned with the leaders in this industry, and because we’ve built strong bonds on the supply side, we are positioned to better serve our customers.

The one constant with Shamrock is that we never stand still. Our people are looking ahead, moving forward, transitioning from one channel to the next. If it’s taking a paper statement and converting it into a digital image and then distributing it electronically, that’s what we do if the demand is there. Again, we are focusing on meeting customer demand: This is how Shamrock has developed into the company we are today.

I was talking to Tim (Connor) the other day about my path at Shamrock; it’s interesting because I transitioned from sales to being the guy that’s up at ten o’clock at night worrying about making payroll.  The buck stops here. A lot of people can judge you or the decisions that you make as president and CEO, but the reality is that they’ve never walked in your shoes. And due to those pressures, that’s where family becomes so very important. Cyndi, Corrie and Megan—they have always been my support and balance. I am very blessed to have a spouse who truly understood my role and supported me. She would say to me, “What’s the worst that can happen? So we go back to where we were?” And then she’d remind me: “Where we were was pretty good.”

As you are looking at retirement you realize that your health and the relationships that you have are really the most important things in life. I’m very proud of what we have been able to accomplish at Shamrock—and I’m humbled by the fact that our people—this Shamrock family—has given back with such a generous spirit. For 11 years, we’ve been honored by NorthCoast 99 as one of the best places to work; it warms my heart because it is our employees who nominate Shamrock for that award, not me. 

So how do you measure success? It’s been 32 years at Shamrock and I have many blessings to count, well beyond what I had ever anticipated. So, looking ahead I can be incredibly satisfied, and above all incredibly proud, that where I’ve been and where we have developed as The Shamrock Companies, is pretty good.