CME Group, 4-H steer youth toward agricultural industry for fifth straight year

(NewsUSA) - CME Group has once again partnered with National 4-H Council to sponsor the interactive and educational Commodity Carnival, which will visit 120 state and county fairs in the Midwest during the summer and fall of 2017. The Commodity Carnival and companion app, Risk Ranch, give players a fun and engaging way to learn about agriculture by bringing a steer to market.

"CME Group's roots are in agriculture, and we are pleased to provide this program for the fifth straight year," says CME Group Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy.

"We look forward to helping the next generation of farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness leaders to better understand the concept of risk management in a fun way and from a young age."

The participants in the Commodity Carnival will learn how to grow and bring a "steer" to market. If they are successful, they can win a blue ribbon while improving their literacy in agriculture science and basic economics.

"Our partnership with CME Group has allowed us to instill fundamentals of risk management and basic economics with young people throughout fair season and beyond," says National 4-H Council President and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo.

"This program helps students develop problem solving, communication and technical competence skills, and those are essential for both positive youth development and preparation for the workforce."

The Commodity Carnival's entertainment and education is not limited just to the fairgrounds. Kids can continue to learn about real-life cost and risk management through the award-winning agriculture app developed by CME Group, "Risk Ranch." This enjoyable and informative game can be downloaded free of charge either online or on your mobile device.

To learn more about Risk Ranch or see a list of the 120 fairs participating this fair season, visit www.cmegroup.com/4hcarnival.

Posted on July 24, 2017 .

4 simple ways to stay productive and conquer your to-do list

(BPT) - Did you know that in an average week, 75 percent of Americans skip doing something for themselves because they didn’t adequately plan or allow enough time for it? Does looking at your to-do list feel so daunting that it discourages you from making any progress at all?

You’re not alone. A new Post-it Brand productivity study found that more than 1 in 4 Americans feel completing everything in their weekly to-do list is harder than running a marathon.

Juggling multiple tasks at one time, along with a never-ending to-do list, is a common challenge for everyone — even those at the top of their game. Two professionals in the culinary and fitness industries share some of their tips to help you take control of your to-do list and increase your productivity.

The ‘write’ way

You’re 42 percent more likely to get something done if you write it down, according to research from the Dominican University of California. Creating a to-do list is an efficient way to visualize and prioritize your tasks, both short-term and long-term. Celebrity chef Russell Jackson is always looking for ways to be more productive and stay inspired. “Writing items down helps me feel that I’ve taken the first step in conquering the task,” he says. “I like to think of lists as a roadmap to help me visualize what I need to achieve.” Post-it Super Sticky Notes, 4 inches x 6 inches, are a perfect tool for jotting down tasks, goals and to-dos, and when paired with flags and tabs, it’s easy to keep important information at your fingertips, stay organized and take your to-do list wherever you go!

Break it down

Too often people attempt to improve their productivity by tackling large projects in a single session. The results may be disappointing and, in many cases, the project is left unfinished. Instead of getting bogged down in the entire scope of a project, take time to break down to-dos into digestible actions, and goals into specific, manageable categories and tasks. This allows you to focus on handling each of these smaller objectives so you can transition some goals from to-do to done.

Toss your tech

“Technology isn’t always the answer to checking things off your to-do list,” says Jackson, adding that even a tech lover such as himself needs a tactile method to spark creativity. Without a screen limiting you to seeing only the small tasks at hand, take advantage of a large surface and use Easel Pads to move big ideas around so you can see everything you are trying to accomplish. Seeing how fluid tasks can be can relieve some stress.

Clear your mind

If you find your current strategy isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch it up. Go for a walk or clear your head by taking 15 minutes to do something you enjoy. For world-renowned fitness artist and celebrity trainer Nicole Winhoffer, even a 10-minute jog can help bring fresh ideas. She uses Post-it List Notes to write down her post-workout inspirational thoughts. “When you come back to your task after that quick sweat session, write down the first things that come to mind — those can spark ideas that you might never have thought of.”

Post-it Brand created a quiz to help you learn more about your list-making style and to find solutions and tools to help you be productive, tackle your to-do lists and achieve your goals. Visit www.post-it.com/quiz to take the short quiz and find solutions tailored for you to boost your productivity.

Survey details: The Post-it Brand Productivity Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,021 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, between March 30 and April 5, 2017, using an email invitation and an online survey.

Posted on July 23, 2017 .

Working like a dog: Companies find benefits in going pet-friendly

Charger peers over his cubicle at Replacements, Ltd.

Charger peers over his cubicle at Replacements, Ltd.

(BPT) - It’s fair to call Charger a bull in a china shop. Well, at least a pit bull. The charming nine-year-old has a full-time job in the marketing department at dinnerware giant Replacements, Ltd.

“Charger’s been coming to Replacements since I rescued him from the side of a road as a puppy, so he’s really grown up here,” says Kevin Boyd. “Coming to work is great for Charger because he’s able to engage with people and other dogs so it’s really helped him become more sociable; he has so many friends who give him treats or want to take him for walks. Having him here helps me relax because I know he’s not home alone and really creates special moments in the day, like having him sit in my lap while I’m working.”

Charger is among dozens of pets you’ll find at Replacements. A walk through the warehouse and you’ll see dogs riding on carts pushed by their owners or perhaps encounter a cat or two. An opossum riding high on the shoulder of her human friend even graced the company's retail store with a visit.

Replacements implemented its pet-friendly policy more than 20 years ago, after Founder and CEO Bob Page received a dog for his birthday and couldn't bear to leave him home alone. Fast-forward two decades, and national and international media have repeatedly recognized Replacements as one of the top pet-friendly businesses in the country. The company invites all employees and customers to bring their pets to work or shop; in fact, Replacements’ front doors read, "All Well-Behaved Pets Welcome."

Gaining scientific support

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University spent a week at Replacements, focusing specifically on the impact of dogs in the workplace. The VCU team monitored stress levels among three test groups: those who brought their dogs to work every day, dog owners who left their pets at home, and those who do not own any pets.

"We were surprised to find that stress actually decreased throughout the day among those who brought their dogs to work, while stress levels significantly increased for those who left their dogs at home," says principal researcher Dr. Randy Barker. "About half of those who bring their dogs to work said their productivity increased with their dog present. Some employees even commented that the presence of pets increases cooperation and builds relationships among coworkers.”

Barker also notes employees overall had higher job satisfaction than industry norms. He believes establishing pet-friendly policies could be a great benefit that doesn't hamper a company's bottom line. "I think leadership in many organizations may be hesitant to allow animals in the workplace, but our study indicates pet presence may serve as a low-cost wellness intervention that may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support."

Emalee comes to work every day with Jonathan Walker

Emalee comes to work every day with Jonathan Walker

Getting started as a pet-friendly workplace

Replacements hears from large and small companies across the country wanting to start similar practices and policies. Their best advice? Start small.

“Consider having a pilot day to gauge how a pet presence works for your organization,” says Public Relations Manager Lisa Conklin. "You might try allowing pets for a half day or a Friday to determine the best fit for your employees and your business. Being pet-friendly is truly a huge part of our corporate culture — so many of our employees tell us it’s one of the best benefits the company offers."

Replacements' formal pet policy requires all animals must be current on vaccinations, polite to people and other pets, and stay on a leash near their owners unless contained in an office or cubicle space. Owners are also required to clean up after any accidents.

Conklin adds pet owners must be sensitive to the fact some people have allergies or may be fearful of animals. Likewise, other employees aren't allowed to aggravate or intimidate pets. "We've seen many instances where employees actually got to know each other better through their pets. Seriously, it's hard not to smile when you're greeted by a wagging tail and friendly face!"

Posted on July 23, 2017 .

Big advice for the smallest businesses

You can learn from small but successful companies how to better grow your own firm.

You can learn from small but successful companies how to better grow your own firm.

While large enterprises may make the most headlines, it’s often the country’s smallest businesses that are providing jobs, fueling innovation and growing the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 62 percent of all U.S. businesses are microbusinesses, or businesses with fewer than 10 employees. These businesses also account for 75.3 percent of all private-sector employers. 

These small but mighty companies often face a unique set of challenges. With fewer employees and resources, owners of microbusinesses often find themselves juggling all aspects of the business, including areas where they may not have expertise or experience in managing, while often competing against larger, more established enterprises. 

To shine a spotlight on these inspirational entrepreneurs, Microsoft recently recognized 10 microbusinesses that are making the biggest impact. The full list includes Philip and Melissa Niu, Parachut; Jason and Sarah Kenworthy, Pink Helmet Posse; Noah Elias, Noah Fine Art; Dr. Agnes Scoville, Scoville & Company (Pacidose); August Graube, Fort Boards; Mikaila Ulmer, Me & the Bees; Jessica Matthews, Uncharted Play; Dave Ackerman, Tobacco MotorWear; Megan and Marshall Dostal, Further; and Kalika Yap, Citrus Studios.

These companies demonstrate what is possible with an idea and the determination to bring it to fruition. Whether you’re an already-established small business or a future entrepreneur, below are some best practices cultivated from this standout group of microbusinesses: 

• Inspiration can be found anywhere. From bee stings to childhood hobbies, inspiration for these business owners came from a wide range of places. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, being open to unexpected ideas and thinking outside the box are keys to discovering a new business, product or service idea.

• Never stop listening and learning. The businesses with the most loyal customers are the ones focused on continuous listening and learning. Whether in person or via software and social media, listening to your audience helps build trust and keeps them coming back. Beyond customer service, big data is another way to access a wealth of knowledge about your audience and business trends. Big data software like Microsoft Azure is also more affordable and easier to use than ever, allowing even the smallest businesses to benefit from enterprise-grade analytics. 

• Ask for help. Launching a business can be intimidating, especially if you have little or no experience in all the areas necessary for your business to function, such as accounting or HR. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out to other small businesses in your area, finding a mentor or joining an online community can help you find the answers you need.

• Don’t let anything hold you back. From preschool kids to military veterans, the featured microbusiness owners are proof that success can be found at any age and at any stage of life. Time and time again, entrepreneurs shared that the most important thing to do is stop second-guessing yourself and just get started.

• Automate day-to-day tasks. Technology, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, can help you work smarter and more efficiently. Automating your business processes lets you and your employees focus less on the day-to-day tasks so you can focus your time and energy on more important responsibilities. 

To learn more about the 10 all-star microbusinesses, including how they got their starts, tackled common small-business challenges, and the techniques and technologies that have led to their success, download the e-book at https://info.microsoft.com/10under10eBook.html?wt.mc_id=AID608734_QSG_145084. - via NAPSI

Posted on June 3, 2017 .

Keeping your business running smoothly

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration, 80 percent of the 28.8 million U.S. small businesses have no employees, placing a heavy burden on the business owner when it comes to juggling every detail of running a company. From IT issues to customer service and even facilities management, a small-business owner must be a jack-of-all-trades. 

Fortunately, some banks are recognizing the need for more specialized support for small-business owners and are carving out a niche to better serve them. 

Here are three ways small-business owners can get more from their banking partner:

A good relationship with the bank can give small businesses a big boost.

A good relationship with the bank can give small businesses a big boost.

Relationships Matter

Banks that specialize in serving small-business clients understand the financial pressures they face and will assign a relationship manager with expertise to help them endure the challenges of today's competitive market. Relationship managers can be a small-business owner's best resource when it comes to managing finances; they can anticipate needs, troubleshoot, and provide a wide array of products and solutions to help clients achieve their goals. Small-business owners who take the time to get to know their relationship managers can find them to be valuable and trusted partners. 

Money to Grow With

Whether a business owner needs to acquire upgraded equipment, finance expansion plans or smooth out cash flow, a well-capitalized bank with decision makers at the local level can provide quick access to loans, lines of credit, letters of credit and much more. Clients who already have established relationships with their bank may have an easier road to accessing the funds they need. Since documents don't always tell the whole story, it helps to have someone at the bank who understands the business and can speak on its behalf.

Products and Services Tailored to Fit

Banks that offer a full suite of treasury management products and services help business owners perform banking activities quickly and easily, leaving more time for growing the business. Treasury management professionals are made available to consult with business owners to better understand their unique needs and implement solutions to optimize cash flow, streamline receivables and manage accounts.

For example, "at BankUnited, we recognize that small-business owners' needs are vastly different from individual consumers'," explained Gerry Litrento, senior executive vice president, retail and business banking. "Our teams of experienced professionals are prepared to help small businesses thrive in today's competitive environment." - via NAPSI

Posted on June 3, 2017 .

Ohio announces partnership to provide free resources and tools to keep businesses safer

For the first time in Ohio history, the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) has turned its efforts towards providing businesses with resources and information proven to deter and respond to attacks as well as survival resiliency in the event of an attack. In partnership with The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM), ODPS launched the My Safer Ohio Business clearinghouse for Ohio businesses to better protect their customers, employees, and property, particularly in light of recent attacks by individuals and small groups on people in and around businesses. Tools include layered physical security, cyber security hygiene, and information previously shared only with governmental entities.

“The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, representing over 7,500 members statewide, is excited about this partnership with the Ohio Department of Public Safety,” said ORCM President and CEO Gordon M. Gough. “We feel that this resource will provide our members with critical information to not only help protect their businesses, but make it easier to access key state services. Today we have provided all our members with details regarding the My Safer Ohio Business clearinghouse.”

This partnership will open the door for businesses to have simple access to a wide variety of resources, safety tools, and information in order to aid in their development of emergency plans, training, communication and collaboration. Programs such as the Ohio Public Private PartnershipEmergency Partner Credentialing System as well as a wide variety of templates are now available for all businesses in one central location.

“Partnerships are key to success,” said ODPS Director John Born. “The goal of this partnership is simple; create a stronger, safer and more resilient state of Ohio."

Partner organizations will also have the ability to submit and share topical information and resources through the clearinghouse.

The My Safer Ohio Business clearinghouse can be found at: 

http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/mysaferohiobusiness/

Posted on May 22, 2017 .