Monday, July 28, 2014

Square One organization begins recruiting

Being an American man in his 50s isn't what it used to be. My grandfather worked for Delaware Power & Light from 1932 to 1966. My father was a teacher for the State of Delaware from 1956 to 1988. My father-in-law worked for Westinghouse from 1948 to 1990. And yes, while I worked for the Post Register from 1981 to 2010, I am now putting a living together the 21st century way: freelance writing, a band, substitute teaching and now a business opportunity called Square One, a business networking program that I have started with Michelle Ziel-Dingman and Monica Bitrick.

If I seem to be backing into this story, it's because the old newsman in me still recoils at the idea running a press release in which I am quoted. The press release is out, the Facebook page is set up. BizMojo Idaho is part of the value equation.

OK, so what is Square One? It is a membership-based organization for networking and education, but not your typical pass-a-lead group. We are looking for owners of small- to mid-sized businesses and mid- to high-level decision makers from larger companies. Membership will be limited in each category, e.g., HVAC, telecommunications, office supplies, real estate, etc.

"We are the only networking group that offers integrated marketing opportunities for all of our members," said Ziel-Dingman. "All members will have regular promotion online via social media and our partnering Web sites at no additional cost."

Meetings will be held twice-a-month at The Grape Van Gogh, 2289 E. 17th Street. Every meeting will feature an educational segment. "We want to teach our members how to develop their leadership skills and improve their communication, no matter what their position is within the company," Bitrick said.

There will be preliminary kickoff meeting Aug. 20 at the Idaho Falls Country Club, with the first regular meeting Sept. 9.

On a personal note, I've known Michelle and Monica for four years and know how effective they are in the business community. I look forward to learning a lot from them, also from the people who join this group. And I think I have some good things to share myself. So if you want to find out more, check out the Square One Facebook page here.

Preliminary site plan for Sand Creek Commons shopping area

Click on this for a larger version.
While making the rounds today to see what might be going on, I found the preliminary site plan for the Sand Creek Commons development, on the southeast corner of Sunnyside Road and 25th East, otherwise known as Hitt Road.

Everyone who follows BizMojo Idaho even casually knows this development, by Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corp., will be home to Cabela's and a new D.L. Evans bank branch. There is a lot of dirt being moved there, and the cities of Idaho Falls and Ammon are on the same page over sharing the costs of widening Hitt Road south of Sunnyside. Credit for that should go to the respective City Council presidents, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said. That would be Bryan Powell for Ammon and Mike Lehto for Idaho Falls.

Click on the photo for a bigger version of the plan, which I laid on the floor and shot with my phone (feeling a lot like the Man From U.N.C.L.E.) If you find it hard to read, let me run down what's on it:

  • 4 anchor tenant stores (of which Cabela's is one) and a retail strip on the north side
  • Pads A through L
  • Acres of parking

Please be aware that preliminary site plans are exactly that, preliminary. Things need to be reviewed at every level and signed off on. But this is where it is right now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keep calm and work on: Tips for reducing workplace stress

Have you ever visited Portland, Oregon? Portland is a city full of beautiful scenery, with a laid back and fun downtown scene, and its own independent feeling.

Sadly, I can claim only one visit to this beautiful city. I can also sadly say that on that trip I almost missed experiencing this beautiful city because of work – and I wasn’t even on a business trip.

It’s quite simple to explain, to be honest. I was on a vacation with my entire family, but all it took was one phone call and text from a client to make me teleport mentally back to my office in Idaho Falls and become engulfed in their issue instead of enjoying my vacation with family and friends.

Luckily, my husband sternly reminded me we were on vacation and my fully staffed office was capable of assisting my client. I pleaded with him for a few minutes to just “take care of things,” but he refused. So away went my phone and my lifeline to work and workplace stress for five days ... and am I glad he interceded!

Looking back, I can say present work self would be pretty ticked off at my previous work self for letting workplace stress rob me of family vacation memories just to appease one client in their moment of need. I won’t lie, however, by saying I didn't check my web mail a few times to make sure everything in the office was fine.

My situation is not unique. In fact, work life and personal life intertwine so much nowadays that workplace stress has become a major issue in today’s society. There is not one person I can think of that can say they are exempt from workplace stress – and more than likely the same amount of professionals could probably attest to not being able to effectively deal with workplace stress.

In a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association, 36 percent of respondents said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help the manage stress. This means there are a lot of stressed-out professionals working in the same office as you for a company that doesn’t offer any assistance for managing workplace stress.

To play devil’s advocate for businesses, identifying successful stress management programs can be difficult to cater towards everyone’s individual needs, and often times most management professionals may not be able to identify the stress levels of those reporting to them. That means it’s up to us on the individual level to take a stand against workplace stress. But where do we even start?

Like any other problem – identifying the issues to resolve is the first step. Identifying your stressors is pretty important in step in reducing workplace stress and no different from any other problem resolution.

Keep in mind this step by itself takes some time and soul searching. If A causes B and I get upset/stressed out at point C, maybe the stressors are A or B or both. Stressor identification is crucial to eliminating workplace stress.

Next, it’s important to create healthy responses to your stressors. This can be a million things, from delegating workloads, talking to friends, exercising, quality rest and relaxation time.

Responses are based on personal preferences and recognition of what works from person to person. I personally have a date with a treadmill and weights once a day (schedule permitting, of course) to keep calm and working on.

We weren’t born to work – therefore it’s ludicrous to think we should live to work. Work and careers are an important part of each of our lives. However, it’s even more important to have work-life balance by establishing boundaries for work in your personal life. Life is short and so is our personal time.

It’s important to get some rest and relaxation every once in a while. You are not a machine. Our bodies are designed to take a break every once and a while to recharge. It’s important to take whatever time you can to recharge both mentally and physically. Trust me when I say that not sending that last email off at 2:30 a.m. won’t demolish your career (and this comes from a frequent late night emailer).

Lastly, it’s important to rally the support troops to help reduce those stress loads. Whether it be sharing with your manager some issues or struggles you are having in the workplace – or having a “venting”

session with your significant other after work – it’s is important to have a support system that helps you through stressful times. You would probably be surprised on how advice from a support system can help bring things into a new perspective or even help to see options you may have not considered.

So take it easy, why don’t you, and enjoy the rest of the summer stress free! Your boss and your friends will thank you!

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human relations company in Idaho Falls.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BBB hosting free BBQ picnic Wednesday

The Snake River Better Business Bureau is holding a free barbecue picnic at Freeman Park Shelter No. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"No strings attached," says the invitation. "No boring speakers. Just a chance for like-minded business owners to get together for lunch."

If you are interested, here is the link to follow: Free lunch.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Idaho Falls ranks No. 1 in wage growth study

The 24/7 Wall St Web site has ranked Idaho Falls No. 1 on its list of "10 Cities Where Wages Are Soaring."

The story, posted Wednesday, says wages rose 18.4 percent between the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013, "by far the most of any metro area in the nation."

To read the full story, follow this link. For those of you too lazy to manage a mouse click, here are the "vital stats":

  • 1-yr. wage growth: 18.4%

  • Average weekly wage: $806
1-yr. unemployment rate change: -0.6%
  • 1-yr. employment rate change: N/A
What's driving this is unemployment. "The Idaho Falls unemployment rate fell from an already-low 5.2 percent in May of 2013 to just 3.7 percent this May, lower than in the vast majority of U.S. metro areas. In two of the three counties in this metro area, professional and business services accounted for much of the wage growth overall."

The other communities in the top ten were:

2. The Villages, Fla. (avg. weekly wage $870)
3. Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (avg. weekly wage $791)
4. Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio (avg. weekly wage $802)
7. Boise (avg. weekly wage $839)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Workplace stress is a costly business

Have you ever just had the week from you know what? You know those weeks where nothing goes right at work, where everything goes wrong from the coffee spill on your white shirt on the way to work to the angry phone call to computers dying, workplace demands, and ... on the list goes. Those are the weeks we would rather take a trip to a sandy beach to watch the tide roll in -- and honestly, we would probably be doing ourselves and our employers a favor.

Stress in the workplace is hard to avoid. – but what exactly causes it? According to the American Institute of Stress the most common reasons for workplace stress include workload, people issues, juggling work and personal lives, and job security. Between deadlines, demands, managing/dealing with different personalities, ever-changing workplaces, and constant workplace interruptions, there is no escape from some form of workplace stress.

According to Forbes magazine, the average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate at one time. Additionally, Forbes reported that 40 percent of adults in a recent survey say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.

Workplace stress is a problem that plagues businesses both big and small and has a costly impact on employees and employers. One of the most crucial areas of impact intertwined within every aspect of an employee’s performance is decision making.

“Decision making is critical in the work environment,” says Zakery Warren, assistant executive director and counselor with southeast Idaho’s largest mental health practice Pearl Health Clinic. “The right amount of stress keeps a person alert, challenged, and striving for growth and improvement for their company, product or team. When stress becomes a detriment, when it is too high, anxiety and uncertainty clouds a person's judgment, which clouds decision making and thus prevents the growth and improvement a person seeks.”

The mental impact that workplace stress can impact employees well beyond the workplace leading to depression, substance abuse, problems within the homes, suicide, and violence (both in and out of the workplace) to name a few.

Workplace stress takes a toll on your body too. It can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, fatigue, and decreased immunity to common illnesses (e.g. cold, flu, etc).
On the business side workplace stress is costly. In fact, employers spend upwards o $200 billion for absenteeism, workers’ claims, turnover, and increased insurance rates – all related to stress related issues in the workplace. That doesn’t even touch the hidden costs of lower morale, productivity, efficiency, decrease in customer service.

Stress in the workplace is serious and isn’t solved by a desktop stress ball. Businesses and employees alike need to create and find solutions to eliminating workplace stress. Check out next week’s feature for tips on managing workplace stress from an HR and mental health perspective to help eliminate those workday worries and stressors.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Idaho Falls Indian restaurant now open

Tandoori Oven owner Jatin Arora
Tandoori Oven, Idaho Falls' first Indian restaurant, is finally open for business. It is located at 3204 S. 25 East, where Play N Trade used to be.

Owner Jatin Arora only got the signs hung today, but had a few people in for lunch. The restaurant, which seats about 75 people, is looking for help.

This is the second Tandoori Oven. Arora has been doing business in Logan, Utah, for about 10 years. He said he was originally looking at Pocatello, but a longtime friend from Idaho Falls alerted him to the absence of Indian cuisine here.

"I've been to Idaho Falls quite a few times, and it seems like an ideal market for us," he said. "There is no real Indian restaurant, and there seems to be a demand for Indian cuisine."

Asked to guess how many locals have never had Indian food, he said, "I would think it's a high percentage." If you have never eaten Indian, he advised going with a chicken masala or coconut kurma the fist time.

Tandoori Oven's hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, Monday through Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for dinner and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.