Friday, October 31, 2014

Bachelor’s degree requirements: Big deal or big bust when recruiting candidates?

I am going to share a little secret with you. With five-and-a half years of higher education and two bachelor’s degrees I have only used a portion of what I learned in college in my career.

That’s not to say I haven’t used anything from college, in fact I have utilized what I learned in my human resources classes, legal courses, and marketing classes. You can thank Boise State University for my ability to write these articles as well (I was a terrible writer going into college). However, I certainly haven’t used anything from my statistics, calculus or computer information systems classes.

Obtaining my degrees wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I had to do. As a young adult I was learning what the real world was like on my own, working full-time and going to school full-time.

No one paved my way or gave me handouts to help. I had to do everything on my own. I learned about what it takes to finance life goals when you do not have the financial resources to do so (i.e. student loans). If that wasn’t enough, I had to learn how to persevere when I tragically lost my brother my sophomore year and had my husband deployed to Iraq my senior year.

I almost gave up. Actually, I was probably a couple semesters away from Boise State giving up on me at one point. But I didn’t give up. You see that despite all the hard work, heartache and just wanting to take some steps back when I was being pushed forward, I knew that without at least a bachelor’s degree I would never be able to have the career I wanted or even be considered for jobs I wanted.

I was right. After college, any and every job I wanted in human resources required at least a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. It wasn’t until after college I realized how valuable those little pieces of paper with my name on them were. Not only were they my ticket into the stadium of career dreams, they were my ticket onto the playing field.

Now on the other side of the table, recruiting day in and day out through our firm – with jobs from entry level administrative assistants all the way up to executive directors – I am faced with determining what qualifications we will require as a foundation and a basis of knowledge to attract and retain top level talent. And guess what? We too require bachelor’s degrees, some courses in higher education, or at least equivalent experience for certain positions.

My take on recruiting and qualifications isn’t unique and has become more or less the norm for recruiting these days. The fact is, companies want to see a bachelor’s degree for most of the jobs that they will recruit for. As we discussed last week, nationally more and more companies are requiring bachelor’s degrees for entry level jobs.

But why? What’s the big deal about a $30,000 plus piece of paper? And more importantly why does it make or break your chances of getting a job? Well there are a lot of reasons, to be honest with you.

One of the very basic reasons that companies require some degree of higher education is to streamline qualification requirements – especially in the application process – and later on ensure that job descriptions can be streamlined. This is extremely important to ensure an employer has base level analysis and requirements for jobs, to try to ensure discriminatory recruiting, hiring and retention practices are in place. Companies need a way to compare candidate vs. candidate in a very basic and streamlined way – and degree requirements are an easy way to do that.

Employers also require education or degrees in higher education to try to ensure that candidates have a base level knowledge of what is needed to be successful in a job. Now, employers typically aren’t going to give you the equivalent of a degree-related SAT, but by knowing you obtained a degree
within a certain major (i.e. finance, marketing, communications, business, etc.) the employer is aware of the courses required to complete the degree program. Employers that specifically require degrees or coursework within a certain major have targeted the foundational areas of knowledge needed for the job.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, employers that are just seeking a bachelor’s degree without any specific major are probably doing a disservice to themselves and potential candidates.
Bachelor’s degrees don’t necessarily equal the most qualified candidates in this case.

Lastly, completing a degree program is a strong demonstration to employers of a candidate’s degree of dedication. Most bachelor’s degrees take an average of five years to obtain. This means that candidates have dedicated half a decade of their lives to obtaining that pricey of piece of paper, picking a major, completing course after course down the degree checklist, stressing over test after test during finals week, writing paper after paper, and participating in everyone’s favorite “team or project” group assignment. There’s also the issue financing: financial arrangements with the college or university each semester, possibly going into debt that will have to be paid off long after the diploma is framed and hung in an office.

When employers require a degree as a part of their recruiting and hiring process keep in mind they aren’t trying to hire the right degree. They are trying to hire the right person. Sometimes that right person has professional experience that is above and beyond what any degree program could have ever accomplished, and we do take that into consideration too.

Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Associates, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Riverbend stations add Dave Ramsey to weekday lineup

Dave Ramsey
Riverbend Communications’ news and talk stations, NewsTalk 97.7FM, KEIR-AM (1260 AM) and KEII-AM (690 AM) added The Dave Ramsey Show to their weekday line up beginning Monday. The show will be broadcast live weekdays from noon to 3 p.m.

Dave Ramsey is one of America’s most popular talk radio hosts, with more than 8 million listeners on 500-plus stations nationwide. Nearly 20 years ago, he began his radio show in Nashville, only a few years after he climbed out of bankruptcy. The painful reality of his life story feeds the compassion and sincerity he has for each caller. Listeners respond to the tough love and appreciate the straight talk.

“This is an exciting relevant program to add to our line-up,” said Mike Nelson, operations manager for Riverbend Communications, which owns the stations. “It’s also a great alternative to political talk offered at the same time.”

Idaho’s Midday News with Jolyn Thomas, east Idaho’s only live and local midday talk show, will be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Teton Pharmacy open on West Broadway

Teton Pharmacy owner Jason Bailey
Teton Pharmacy had a grand opening and ribbon cutting Tuesday at its branch at 1855 West Broadway, in the same building as Papa' Murphy's Pizza.

This is part of an expansion and refiguring of the business since Jason Bailey bought it in 2008. After decades off Channing Way, Bailey moved the pharmacy, home health, hospice and medical equipment business to a new, 6,000-square-foot building on Hitt Road, south of Sunnyside. "Being so far on the east side, we found we needed a branch to serve our customers on the west side," he said.

The big question is, of course, how does a relatively small, local operator compete with Walgreen's, which will have a brand new store at Skyline and West Broadway open by then end of the year?

In 2011, the pharmacy giant took a hard stand with Blue Cross of Idaho and decided not to re-sign its contract with Express Scripts, Blue Cross' pharmacy benefits manager. Blue Cross balked, and sent a a letter to members saying that allowing Walgreen's back into the network would result in higher fees that would be passed on to members. When Walgreen's tried to renegotiate, Blue Cross said no.

This means that people employed by the Idaho National Laboratory, the city of Idaho Falls and Idaho Falls School District 91 have to pay significantly more to have their prescriptions fills at Walgreen's. The situation will remain that way until at least 2017.

"It is a big advantage," Bailey said. "The other advantage is that at Walgreen's you wait 45 minutes for a prescription and we can have you in and out of here in less than 10."

Monday, October 27, 2014

I.F. BMW dealership receives recognition

BMW of Idaho Falls has been named Number 5 in the United States in the company’s annual Center of Excellence honors. The awards go to BMW dealerships that distinguished themselves through exceptional performance, consistent brand representation and a dedication to providing an outstanding customer experience.

Of the 339 BMW dealers in the United States, 32 achieved "2014 Center of Excellence" status based on their 2013 performance.

Dealers are listed below in numerical order based on their final scores:
1 Hendrick BMW, Charlotte, N.C.

2 BMW of Murrieta, Murrieta, Calif.

3 BMW of Honolulu, Honolulu, Hawaii

4 Valencia BMW, Valencia, Calif.

5 BMW of Idaho Falls, Idaho Falls
6 BMW of Beaumont, Beaumont, Texas

7 Peter Pan BMW, San Mateo, Calif.

8 Hilton Head BMW, Bluffton, S.C.

9 BMW of Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas

10 Sun Motor Cars BMW, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Limited education = Limited career opportunities

Remember your high school graduation? It was the day you could say so long to the days of required classes, schoolwork, and schedules and hello to an endless summer vacation of freedom. After high school we were free to make our own choices, choose or not choose college. We were sure to find a job where we made TONS of money without having to go to school. That’s how it happened for you right?

It’s nice to dream of what should’ve been, and not long ago this ideal wasn’t too far off track.
Decades ago, graduating high school was the transition into adulthood and was the standard to securing a solid future. Of course college was encouraged, but on a very general basis the same or similar opportunities were available to high school and college graduates alike.

Today is a different story.

First a disclaimer: a college degree isn’t necessarily a reason I will or won’t hire someone. I strongly feel that real world career experience can often times mean a candidate has the same, or even more experience over a candidate with a college degree. Bill Gates didn’t graduate from college, and I am pretty sure no one would require him to have a college degree to be considered for any position.

But Bill Gates is a career fairy tale come true and the exception to almost every rule.
Bachelor’s degrees have replaced the high school diploma as a minimum educational requirement for any decent paying job in today’s job market. Shockingly, it has become a standard at some companies as necessary for an entry level jobs.

According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com, three out of 10 companies are hiring more college-educated workers for jobs held in the past primarily by high school graduates.

It doesn’t seem right, but it is true and it’s only just begun. Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, recently said, “Employers are filling more entry level functions with educated labor. While some of this may be attributed to a competitive job market that lends itself to college grads taking lower skill jobs, it also speaks to companies raising performance expectations for roles within their firms to enhance overall productivity, product quality and sales."

As a college graduate, business owner and self-proclaimed management expert, this surprised me but made sense all the same. It makes sense that companies are trying to hire an educated workforce at rock bottom wages by giving them entry level positions.

What this actually means is that there is a hiring trend nationwide in which companies, big and small, are requiring an associate’s degree and above just to be a janitor and clean the toilets. Additionally, it means that bachelor’s degrees often aren’t the end of the road for people who want to move up the career ladder. Master’s degrees have become more prevalent as necessary for top level management and executive positions.

As a college graduate holding two bachelor’s degrees, I sympathize with anyone who asks why go to college for four or five years, racking up thousands of dollars in debt, just to earn the right to be considered for a receptionist’s position? You could have counted me in that group years ago, but as the markets change it’s looking more and more like there isn’t even a choice.

Employers are calling the shots, and for them it’s a buyer’s market. This doesn’t apply to employers trying to immediately fill highly specialized positions. But in a general sense employers have more opportunity than ever to take the time to recruit, attract, select and retain the employees that fit their perfect checklist.

So what is the big deal with college degrees anyway? Why do employers care that you have an overpriced piece of paper with your name on it? Next week and we will discuss why employers feel degree-holding candidates are a must in their businesses.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guns and Gear kick starts proposed urban renewal district

Dixie Murphy, inside Guns and Gear, scheduled to open in November.
With close to $3.5 million invested, Guns and Gear on Crane Drive is poised to give the blighted land around it a shot in the arm.

Dixie Murphy is fairly certain that nobody will have seen the likes of their indoor shooting range. Staff has been hired and a grand opening has been scheduled for Nov. 21. Murphy, partner with her son Shane and his friend Ryan Later (who approached them with the idea in 2012), has a grandmotherly way of talking about Glocks and AR-15s, tactical and static target lanes featuring the latest computer technology, and an HVAC system compliant with EPA regulations.

Overall, they have spent $2.8 million on the two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, which overlooks the Snake River Landing development, and $700,000 on equipment.

Aside from everything happening inside the walls, however, Guns and Gear is poised to bring more development to the ground between Interstate 15 and the Porter Canal, just west of Snake River Landing.

The Idaho Falls Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a hearing Nov. 5 about designating 55 acres as the Eagle Ridge Urban Renewal District. If the commission favors the proposal, it will send its recommendation to the Idaho Falls City Council for a vote Dec. 11.

What an urban renewal district allows is tax increment financing through the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency. Put simply, while the taxes collected on the land Guns and Gear sits on will go toward schools, city, county, fire protection, etc., the taxes collected on the building and other improvements will go to the Redevelopment Agency to be spent on roads, water, sewer and power lines in the district.

Although the Redevelopment Agency has existed since 1968, Idaho Falls didn’t institute its first urban renewal district until 1988. That was when the Shilo Inn was to be built, and the taxes collected from the improvements on blighted land along Lindsay Boulevard made developments like Taylor Crossing on the River feasible. A second urban renewal district, called River Commons, incorporates Snake River Landing.

What any urban renewal district needs is a big project to kick start the tax increment financing to make other development possible, said Idaho Falls City Planner Brad Cramer. “There’s suddenly a buzz about this land that has been sitting there for years,” he said.

One person who recognizes the potential is Steve Keim, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Intermountain. With two silent partners, Keim has formed the Eagle Ridge Co. and bought a lot of the land inside the proposed district.

Ten years ago, with Renaissance Partners, Keim played a role in bringing in Fairfield Inn and the Super Wal-Mart on Utah Avenue, so he recognizes what urban renewal makes possible.

“This (Eagle Ridge) piece sits right between the two other districts and right inside a curve on the Interstate,” he said. “There is a lot of potential for Idaho Falls to make a better showing to people driving on I-15.”

Although she is focused on opening Guns and Gear, Murphy said she would be happy to see development around them. “I knew when we started this project it was going to jump start the land values on this bench,” she said. “Maybe this is where Costco will want to build. I would love that!”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Breast Cancer awareness gala set for Friday night

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and although it is almost over you still have a chance to get with the program. The Rex & Tiffany Redden Foundation is holding a big kickoff event, Tapas for Tatas 2014, Friday night at 6:30 at the Marriott Residence Inn.

The foundation’s intent is to save lives through early detection of breast cancer, education and screenings, and to provide funding for breast cancer research.

The founders, Rex and Tiffany Redden, have their own cancer story. In 2013, with no history of the disease, Tiffany received a rare diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. Unlike most breast cancer, TNBC does not involve the receptor genes for estrogen, progesterone or HER2/neu. This makes it more difficult to treat, since most chemotherapies target one of these three receptors. As a result, triple-negative cancers often require combinatorial therapies.

In the past year, Tiffany has undergone both chemotherapy and radiation. Not one to play the victim, she very quickly decided that she would raise awareness through action. She has shared her experience widely on Facebook and through events organized by the foundation.

“Our vision is a world free from breast cancer,” she said. “Until that occurs, we will fight to see increased funding for breast cancer research, affordable mammograms and public education for all men and women.”

Breast cancer survivors will be admitted to Friday at no charge. Otherwise, the cost is $20. Here is the link: http://www.thereddenfoundation.org/events.
Tiffany Redden Tuesday night with the Idaho Falls High School volleyball team, whose members dressed in pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More measured news from Local Market Monitor

When it comes to economic news, if you’re looking for cold water on the face then Local Market Monitor is the place to go.

The Cary, N.C.-based company keeps track of fundamentals in 300 markets across the United States. The September 2014 forecast for Idaho Falls is not horrible, but it offers a far more measured picture than an optimist would like to see.

Here’s the good part: The last time I reported on LMM, on its May 2014 report, it projected Idaho Falls home prices rising 7 percent in the next three years. The report for September projects a three-year rise of 10 percent.

“Economic growth has been erratic since the recession. Growth was mixed in the past year, with job gains in government, but weakness in healthcare and the big retail sector. Expect erratic growth the next few years,” it said.

The LMM’s audience is real estate investors, and with an investment score of 5.6 the risk of buying real estate in Idaho Falls is considered a medium bordering on low.

Here are a few more excerpts:

Home Price
Home prices in this market peaked in Q1 2008 at $190,976. Since their peak, prices have fallen by 15%. In the last 12 months, prices have gone up by 3 percent. The average home price in this market is currently $162,149.

Housing Permits
Total housing permits in August 2014 were down 15 percent from last year. Single family permits were down 9 percent.

We forecast rents to increase 10 percent over the next three years in this market, to an average of $837 per month, partly due to higher inflation.

Jobs were down -0.4 percent in the past year, compared to the national gain of 1.8 percent.

Monday Business Profile: Kickshot Locksmith

Slade Hoopes, owner of Kickshot Locksmith
Growing up in Idaho’s Teton Valley, Slade Hoopes had always figured he’d be a farmer, but when his parents sold their land to developers in 2008 he turned to something that had fascinated him since he was a child, locksmithing.

Hoopes, 27, can pick an old-fashioned lock with the best of them and has an arsenal of customized tools for getting into locked Fords, Dodges, Toyotas and what-have-you. But with high-tech electronics and the Internet, it’s a much different world than even five years ago.

Running his own business, Kickshot Locksmith, Hoopes, 27, knows he’s the new kid on the block. The changing nature of the market has allowed him to identify certain niches where he hopes to make a name for himself as the go-to person.
After his parents, Jack and Lorna Hoopes, sold their land in Teton Valley they were looking for franchise opportunities in which to invest. Hoopes, then a student at Boise State University, told them about Pop-A-Lock, based in Lafayette, La. They signed up and he ran it for two years in Boise, selling the business in 2010.

Hoopes came back to eastern Idaho and spent a brief period driving a food truck, then started Kickshot in 2012. “I’m essentially doing the same thing I did with Pop-A-Lock without paying royalties,” he said. “I knew what I needed and did not need.”

Since starting the business, Hoopes has focused on automotive keys. With older car keys you can still make a duplicate at the hardware store, but Sidewinder and laser cut keys require special machinery and computer codes. Lose the key to your Audi and you can do one of two things. Call the dealer in Boise or Salt Lake City (and pay to have the car towed there) or call Hoopes, who can make one right away for 15 to 25 percent less money.

Hoopes has a unit that communicates with a car or truck’s onboard computer and marries the key to the car’s ignition. “The profit is in the programming,” he said.

Like a lot of locksmith’s, Hoopes offers to unlock any vehicle door for free if there is a child locked in. It’s the right thing to do, but he admits it’s a marketing ploy at heart — in a desperate situation, nobody is going to let a child roast in a car seat out of reluctance to break a window.

Hoopes’ customers include Hertz Car Sales and local repossession yards. He is also dipping a toe into home security system set-up, a rapidly changing environment as well. “You can unlock your home or turn on the lights with your smart phone now,” he said.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Managers need to be friendly, not friends, with employees

I loved college for a number of reasons.  One of them was I had a laid back job at a major corporation with a supervisor who rivaled my best friends on campus. It was a great place to work, at least for a short period of time.

In fact, my supervisor was amazing for quite some time. During the day she would defend our division against the corporate “big wigs” who visited our office semi-annually from the East Coast (and who we felt knew nothing of what we did). After hours she was chummy with the team through various social engagements. It all was a workplace dream come true until personal conflict entered into the picture.

Slowly but surely, as our division developed personal issues between co-workers so entered the problems associated with “picking sides” by our supervisor. Friendships with subordinates became problematic because professional decisions were being made on an emotional and personal basis, favoritism started to blanket the office, morale went down and performance started showing it.
These performance and operations issues did not go unnoticed by the higher-ups, resulting in some “come to Jesus” meetings my supervisor’s reassignment to another position. It was a hard lesson to learn, I am sure, and had a major impact on the company.

Is it OK for managers to be friends with their employees?

Over the years I have worked with a lot of management. Some have understood the balance between personal and professional relationships. Others would rather play the nice guy and be buddies rather than bosses.

This is an issue with newly branded managers all the way up to experienced and “C” level executives, and there’s not any simple answer or scenario.

We spend a lot of time at work and with our co-workers.  So it is easy, and almost natural, for friendships with co-workers to develop. It also is important to remember employees and managers alike are still people. Emotions, beliefs, biases, opinions, etc., all enter into the workplace regardless of who we are or what position we hold.

That’s where the problem itself lies when bosses become buddies. Friendships have their ups, downs, bruises and bumps.  Wouldn’t friendships be even more complicated if one of the friends had the ability to hire, fire, promote or discipline the other friend?

The answer is pretty simple. Not only would this be complicated, but it would introduce complaints about favoritism, discriminatory employment practices and unrealistic expectations.

Any “negative” decision made, especially mainly on the management side, is going to have a heavy impact on the “friend” on the other side. More than likely the decision is going to be taken personally, esulting in an emotional response — sooner or later, inside or outside the workplace.

Think of your ultimate betrayal and that gives you a small sense of what this story could end. I’ve seen it happen, and folks it is not pretty.

I am not recommending that managers should not have any relationships with employees. What I am recommending is “friendly” leadership that doesn’t cross over the “friendship” boundary.

Finding this balance is tough, no doubt. We can always start by looking at what employees look for in great leaders. Employees follow leaders who demonstrate interest in them, care, concern, compassion, understanding and support, and the ability to lead by example.

The best foundation for any relationship in the workplace should be based on professionalism and business guidelines. While friendships between management and employees make for a fun and light workplace, they can lead to big problems. Overall, it’s just bad business.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Home sales numbers stay steady for Bonneville County

It has been a few months, so I thought it might be a good time to check the pulse of real estate in Bonneville County. Other than putting your own house on the market, the best (and less stressful) way to do this is to check the Snake River Regional Multiple Listing Service, which keeps track of home sales, average days on market, median price and homes listed.

Going whole hog, I went down the columns all the way back to 2004, which, as one might surmise by looking at the table above, was the year before the boom started.

As good as the numbers look — this year is holding steady with 2013 — we’ve still got a bit of a climb before we get back to the go-go times of 2005, 2006 and 2007. And it may never happen. As immune as we think we are to national trends we are not, and there’s sobering news out there.

The monthly bulletin from Local Market Monitor paints a fairly sobering picture concerning debt and employment. Here is what it said:

Quite aside from the $10 trillion home owners owe on their mortgages — an amount that doubled in the last 20 years — they owe more than $3 trillion in consumer debt, $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the US. This used to be mainly credit cards and car loans, but over half of it is now concentrated in two groups that are very important to real estate. Home owners owe $450 billion in home equity loans, and young adults owe $1.2 trillion in student loans (whew!). Is it any wonder that so many home owners and would-be new ones have to sit on the real estate side lines?

With many buyers unable to buy, it's pretty clear why home prices are below income levels in most local markets today and why new construction has added so little to the economy. What's worrisome is that this situation, especially for young adults, isn't going to change much in the near future.

In September, the number of jobs was 2.0 percent higher than a year ago — a sign of slow, continuing improvement. Jobs were up 4 percent in construction, 1.3 percent in manufacturing, 1.8 percent in retail, 3.8 percent in business services, 2 percent in healthcare, and 2.8 percent at restaurants.

Government jobs were flat, not only at the federal and state level, where political considerations weigh most heavily, but also at the local level, where spending on education is necessary for long-term economic growth.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sixty seconds over Cabela's

Dave Schwicht, right, and me, face to face with the future. The FAA has said commercial use of drones is illegal, but the ruling was knocked down by an administrative law judge and is being appealed.
Cyndi and Dave Schwicht of Keller Williams Realty East Idaho admit there's a "wow" factor to offering drone reconnaissance of real estate properties. "Guys see it and really get into it," says Dave.

Their DJI Phantom, bought on Amazon.com, cost them about $500. The GoPro camera that mounts on the underside cost about another $500. The expense has been worth it, they say, as it has brought them lots of attention.

"It's not that great for showing the front of a house, but if there's a big piece of land you can show people a lot of things," Cyndi said. What's more, if you download the GoPro app onto your phone you can see the view from the sky in not-so-real time (download can be kind of slow and jerky.)

Crows do not like this radio-controlled four-rotor gizmo at all, and have attacked it. Neither does the Federal Aviation Administration. Although regulations are being worked on, the FAA currently considers it illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes, including real estate photography and journalism.

In March, however, an administrative law judge for the National Traffic Safety Bureau ruled that the FAA's ban on commercial drone flights was not legally enforceable. The case involved Raphael Pirker, who was fined $10,000 for flying a drone over the University of Virginia to obtain promotional footage.

Since the ruling, it appears the FAA hasn't been cracking down on real estate agents using drones, said Paul McLaughlin, attorney for the Iowa Association of Realtors, in an article published July 7 in USA Today.

Because Tuesday was a beautiful day with very little in the way of wind, we took the DJI Phantom out for quick cruise over Cabela's, a project of widespread interest. Here, for your viewing pleasure, here is the MP4 file. Dave was careful not to get too close, so as to not distract anyone on the job site or run afoul of the authorities.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Advertising Federation to host 'Ultimate Bengal' campaign masterminds

Creating a social media campaign involves more than hanging a “Like us on Facebook” sign on the front door. If you want to find out how it is done right, the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation is hosting a “Lunch and Learn” Thursday that is bound to be of interest to you.

Guest speakers will be Adrienne King, director of marketing and communications for Idaho State University, Stuart Summers, ISU’s director of marketing and recruitment, and Teresa Borrenpoh, the college’s director of development. The team will be on hand to talk about “Ultimate Bengal,” a campaign earlier this year that involved more than $13,000 in awards and prizes.

ISU Vice President for Advancement Kent Tingey called it “a unique endeavor to better engage our communities with Idaho State University’s social media and reach out to our constituents.”

Between January and April, more than 130,000 people took part in a contest that ultimately awarded Chastity Lee with one year of in-state tuition, one year of campus housing, a one-year meal plan, $1,000 credit at the ISU bookstore, a reserved parking pass, and a lot of ISU swag.

“We don’t know of another university that has offered an award package like this for interacting with social media,” said Stuart Summers, chair of the ISU Social Media Committee and director of marketing and recruitment for the ISU College of Technology. “One great thing about the Ultimate Bengal Challenge is that a parent, grandparent, relative or friend who wins an entry can give it to an eligible recipient.”

The AdFed Lunch and Learn starts at 11:30 at Dixie’s Diner on Channing Way. For more information, visit the Facebook page here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Villa Coffeehouse planning second location, on Hitt Road

Villa Coffehouse owners Alexis and Chip Langerak
The Villa Coffeehouse has begun remodeling work on a second location, in Sagewood Plaza on Hitt Road next to Runway Fashion Exchange. The shop is expected to open mid-November.

Chip Langerak, who with his wife, Alexis, took over The Villa on Park Avenue in 2012, said they began planning for a second location about six months later. "It's been a real blessing for us," he said. "It's been a lot of fun and we've met a lot of good people."

Things started falling into place after Jones Sew and Vac moved to its new location on First Street. "We talked to the Skidmores (owners of the Sagewood Plaza development) and everything went smoothly from there," Langerak said.

Like the downtown Villa, the second location will feature locally-roasted coffee from Steve and Harry’s Coffee, and soups, sandwiches, and desserts all made from scratch. Artists from the local High Desert Photographic Society will be providing the artwork for the new location to create a vibe similar to the downtown location..

"We want to give a huge thanks to our customers for their support and loyalty," Langerak said. "Without them, this new location wouldn’t be possible."

The Villa Coffeehouse's Facebook page can be found here.

Idaho Mountain Trading opens in new location

The floor at Idaho Mountain Trading, in its new Shoup Avenue location.
If you're planning to go downtown this weekend, be sure to visit Idaho Mountain Trading in its new Shoup Avenue location, next door to where it was for 29 years.

The store opened Monday, after a move that took all Sunday and involved 30 people. In the new store, formerly the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store, the company has 12,000 square feet, more than twice what they had at the corner of Shoup and B.

Owner Richard Napier started the business in 1977 on A Street, where Vino Rosso now is. The advantage of the new location is that they can keep all their inventory on display. Another is the IMAX-sized facade facing Yellowstone Avenue, which now bears the store's green-and-white logo. "It's a very nice billboard for us," Napier said.

No grand opening has been set, but there will be a promotion in November when Grand Targhee comes to visit to offer specials on passes.

Pay Raises: The New Holy Grail

Does the name Satya Nadella sound familiar? If it doesn’t, it very well could be a name you won’t forget by the end of the day.

I have to admit I didn’t have clue about who he was until I read about his comments at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women Computing.

Keep in mind that Nadella should have a little bit more experience and knowledge in employee management – he is, after all, the CEO of Microsoft. But his overnight claim to fame is now based on statements he made at that conference suggesting that women should not ask for raises but have faith in systems that reward them and provide pay raises as a woman. He also suggested that women who don’t ask for raises are creating good karma and have superpowers.

Yes, he really made those statements at a national conference in a room packed with women. Before he could even finish the attendees were feverishly sharing and Tweeting their anger and disagreement. By the close of the business day, his odd, disjointed and controversial statements had made their way back to Microsoft, prompting him to email Microsoft employees as damage control.
Monday may pose more challenges for Nadella in the office, and it might be wise for him to get his own coffee.

In all fairness, however, let's consider one of his statements.

Nadella said he felt that as long as women progressed organically in their careers they would make more money with the company without asking for raises. I would say a majority of managers would hold the same view in assuming that employees that stay get paid progressively higher wages over their years of service. If they don’t receive adequate or increases in pay, would it be likely for them to stay with the company?

Employees in today’s market may not necessarily be staying because of great pay with the promise of increased wages. More than ever, they are motivated by different factors, including flexible work environments, telecommuting, job responsibilities, company cultures, personal reasons, etc. Nevertheless, equitable and fair pay is always at the top of everyone’s list for why they stay at a job or seek out other opportunities.

Many companies put processes in place to try to ensure employees are paid fairly – like annual performance evaluations with the potential to attach merit based pay increases. Or merit-based pay for completing introductory periods of employment.

Even with the best of intentions these processes either are not completed or become complicated for a number of reasons including streamlining the processes, raise/bonus structure, disciplinary processes and setting aside a time annually (or semi-annually) to conduct the evaluations with all employees.

This means that even though the processes are in place, employee pay becomes flatlined and employees begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated, affecting long-term productivity, morale and turnover.

In these situations, employees have a choice of either asking for a raise or hoping the management will recognize their true value and pay up. More often than not, this does not happen, leaving employees in the position of having to ask for a raise.

From a business standpoint, employees taking responsibility for asking for raises could be a win-win situation. Employees are not only responsible for making the overture but also for making the case why they should be paid more. This could lead to a more open and candid process of evaluation.

But for an employee, taking that responsibility can be awkward and nerve-wrecking -- certainly not something anyone jumps up and down about doing. In turn, this can have an even more negative effect, especially if the request is declined, The employee feels not only rejection increased feelings of being undervalued and unappreciated.

Let’s be honest about this entire situation: an employee isn’t going to work at a job for an extended period making wages that are stagnant, especially with the cost of living going up. As the job market continues to lose people to retirement and companies cope with the ever-changing job market, the almighty dollar once again becomes king again in the workplace.
Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Progrexion opening operation in Idaho Falls

Keyboards stacked up on partitions as work goes on inside Progrexion's new operation in Idaho Falls.
A routine check at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department office reveals that Progrexion, a Utah-based company with a call center in Rexburg, has filed plans to renovate the building on International Way nearest to Aeromark. The Utah-based company, which has had an operation in Rexburg for several years, is advertising for workers to staff its Idaho Falls center.

The building was first used by Security Connections Inc., then by Century Link, which still has one call center open on International Way, down from three.

Two other buildings on International Way, one that was occupied by Center Partners and the other by Century Link, have been empty parking lots and "For Lease." All these buildings were built in the mid- to late-1990s with aid from local economic development entities Grow Idaho Falls and the Regional Development Alliance.

Progrexion employs more than 2,100 people at locations in Utah, Idaho and Arizona and anticipates hiring 2,000 additional people between now and the end of 2015. Some of the additional new hires will be for the new call center in Idaho Falls. Progrexion has been recognized by Inc. 5000 Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in America, and by the Post Register as a Top Place to Work in Eastern Idaho. For more information about the company, here is the link to its Web site: http://www.progrexion.com/

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Walk-a-thon against childhood cancer set for Saturday

Idaho Falls area residents will team up Saturday with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a walk-a-thon against childhood cancer.

The walk, which starts at 8 a.m. at Ravsten Stadium, is an opportunity to help support the life-saving mission of one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer research centers. Participants are seeking sponsorships for walking (pledges can be per lap or in a lump sum) and will earn prizes for their donations. The participant who walks the most laps and the participant who raises the most funds will win custom knives made by Robert Martin, owner of www.tearsofthesword.com.

The Rev. Tim Meeks of First Church of the Nazarene said the local goal is to raise $15,000 for St. Judes. It is not too late to register, which can be done by visiting http://fundraising.stjude.org/idahofallswalk.

Since opening in 1962, St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and around the world. No child is denied treatment because of a family’s inability to pay. The hospital’s research has helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the institution opened to almost 80 percent today. It is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. But with a daily operating cost of $1.7 million, St. Jude depends mostly on public contributions and fund-raising events, like Saturday's walk.

For information about this event, visit the event's page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1501564770085469. For information on how to host to host a fund-raising event for St. Jude, call 1-800-457-2444 or visit www.stjude.org/stjudewalk.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Misclassification of Independent Contractors = A Rough Road for Employers

FedEx deliveries are exciting, right? From the moment you order or send a package, track its progress and see the final “delivered” status, it is the ultimate adrenaline rush.

OK, perhaps I exaggerate. To be realistic, deliveries these days are pretty streamlined, simple and likely kind of boring. But last month package deliveries got a little more complicated for FedEx in Oregon and California.

How? Most of us would assume a person wearing a FedEx uniform, groomed to FedEx’s standards driving a FedEx truck and delivering packages on FedEx’s schedule would have to be a FedEx employee. But in Oregon and California, the drivers were actually classified by FedEx as independent contractors. Common sense says that wouldn’t be right, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees. Recently the court rendered a decision holding that the drivers in those states were actually employees.

This is a big deal. In fact, it has been called “an earthquake in the independent misclassification field.”

I can’t tell you what the exact financial effect will be on FedEx in California and Oregon, but can tell you it likely to be dramatic for FedEx and a lot of other companies.

Identifying an individual as an employee or independent contractor is tricky. A solid independent contractor agreement is great to have in place, but it won’t help ward off scrutiny from the IRS, the Department of Labor, and other local, state and federal authorities. There is a lot to consider before entering into a business relationship with someone as an independent contractor.

State laws may differ on who can be classified as an independent contractor, but the IRS has streamlined guidelines to help employers with classification. What should you consider before entering into an independent contractor relationship?

Overall, it is based on the degree of control a company has over an individual and can be broken down into a few areas.

  • Does the company tell the individual exactly what to do in delivering the final product or service?
  • Does the company determine or provide the equipment that is used how, what to wear on a job site and hours of work?
  • Is all work performed on an actual company-provided worksite?
  • Does the company provide training and education to perform the work?
  • Does the company say where to buy materials needed to perform the work?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the person is most likely to fall in the employee category.

It’s also important to consider the degree of control that the company has over other jobs or assignments a person can secure. If an individual is restricted or prohibited from taking additional jobs or assignments, or advertising services outside the company, this also would likely lead to employment status.

In a contracting relationship, a company does not have the authority to prohibit or restrict the contractual agreements a person can enter into with others. In any audit, the IRS would also consider how long the relation is in place or whether there was any expectation of the relationship being permanent.

Last of all, an independent contractor is fully responsible for keeping track of business expenses. The company is not involved and bears no responsibility for the individual’s expenses.
Determining the correct employment classification may not be as easy as tracking your FedEx package, but there are a number of resources to help.  For starters, the IRS has a 20-question that is extremely helpful and can be found here.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.

Smith Honda, Chevrolet open on Sunnyside Road

Stafford Smith inside the new Smith Honda dealership on Pioneer Drive, off Sunnyside Road.
With a lot of kinks still to be ironed out, Smith Chevrolet and Smith Honda are looking at an Oct. 15 soft opening for their new dealerships off Sunnyside Road.

The Honda operation moved from Holmes Avenue to its new facility in late September while the Chevrolet dealership began selling cars and trucks there on Tuesday. The Chevrolet service department is due to open today.

For Stafford Smith and his staff, this represents the culmination of more than a year's worth of work. A few administrative people are still working at the buildings on Holmes, but for all intents and purposes both dealerships are now on 17 acres south of Sunnyside, each in buildings just shy of 30,000 square feet. Smith said he plans to have a grand opening in spring 2015, but is happy to show the place to guests now.

Smith Chevrolet started in 1917, when David Smith set up his dealership with two cars in the lobby of the Hotel Idaho on C Street (now Constitution Way). The dealership was downtown until 1963, when they moved to North Holmes Avenue, which was farmland at the time. They added Honda in 1970, starting with the tiny 600 series cars. The new dealership has been certified with Honda's Environmental Leadership Platinum Award, one of a handful in the United States.

Right now, access to the dealership on Pioneer Drive is closer to the Interstate 15 Exit 116 than Smith or the Idaho Department of Transportation are comfortable with. The address for both dealerships is listed as 3477 S. Pioneer Road, but as it stands now Pioneer Road empties onto Sunnyside just east of Teton Volkswagen and goes nowhere to the south.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Excavation of Bank of Commerce parking lot begins

Excavation work Wednesday at Yellowstone and A Street
Four months after an errant crane broke through the pavement revealing an underground parking structure, repair work has begun at the Bank of Commerce's parking lot at A Street and Yellowstone Avenue.

The incident occurred May 6 when the driver of a 40-ton crane tried to make a wide turn coming out of the alley onto the thoroughfare. Although the existence of the parking structure came as a surprise to many, it's no secret to anyone who has lived here a long time. The bank stands where Dad Clay's Garage used to be. Clay built his garage in 1910 and briefly sold Buicks and Fords before other businessmen acquired exclusive dealership rights.

Bank of Commerce CEO Tom Romrell said the door to the underground parking structure is on the bank's south side. He said that while some city officials claimed after the accident that they might not have been aware of it, it had been inspected as recently as five years ago.

In case you're interested, this week is the 50th anniversary of the Bank of Commerce's downtown branch, which opened in early October 1964. There was an open house that featured a display of federal reserve notes from $1 to $10,000. Who was on the $10,000 bill, you ask? Salmon P. Chase, Abraham Lincoln's treasury secretary.

Large denomination bills were last printed in 1946. Since then, the largest bill you can get at the bank is $100, featuring the picture of my favorite American, Benjamin Franklin.

Since you're dying to know, here's who was on the larger bills, or Gold Certificates, as they were officially called by the Federal Reserve:

$500: William McKinley
$1,000: Grover Cleveland
$5,000: James Madison
$10,000: Salmon P. Chase

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The race is on to get foundations poured

The race is on to get foundations poured before the ground freezes, but Mother Nature has not been helping with the 3.5 inches she dumped on eastern Idaho last weekend and another copious storm Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, in between downpours the work is proceeding apace. Freddy's Frozen Custard, on Woodruff Avenue, was having its foundation poured Wednesday while the footings for the Noodles & Co. on Hitt Road, were also being prepared. Preparation for the Home2 Suites at Snake River Landing were also coming along.

A few of you have asked about the backhoes and dirt in between WinCo Foods and Family Dollar on Woodruff. According to Brian Tomsett, our answer man at the Idaho Falls Building Department, it is the result of excavation work in the WinCo parking lot. Fairly extensive soil settling problems forced WinCo to excavate the dirt -- hence the big pile -- and dump in several truckloads of 3/4-inch gravel, 16 inches deep.

stay tuned as we bring you up to date on the west side Walgreen's, Smith Honda and Chevrolet and the new Melaleuca world headquarters, all of which are entering the homestretch.