What are you doing to keep good employees?

June 10, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’re in a service business, and I always say our assets walk up and down the stairs every day. The key to any good company is great people. This is especially true in smaller companies where every “body “needs to be the right person.

I recently read a book by Andrew Bennett, The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies put People First, that outlines sure-fire ways of keeping great people. Here are some highlights:

  • Don’t put jerks in management just because they’ve been around for a while; it doesn’t mean they are ready to manage others. No matter who you put there, they need to be able to think out of the box and come to the table with new and fresh ideas.
  • Hire for the future, not the past – Choose talent that has a broader perspective on life and can adapt to the world of today.
  • Measure results, not hours  unless you run a factory. Focus on the end game, not how they got there. There’s plenty of ways to get to a goal; be open to new ideas.
  • Mix old with new – If your company is big enough, include different generations on teams to get a better perspective on solving a problem. A good idea can come from anywhere and the Millennials have a lot to offer and are willing to learn.
  • Formal training program – No matter how big or small your company is, if you want them to move up the ladder, you need to get them exposed to different aspects of your business. Someone in sales may need to do a stint in customer service or production scheduling to have a greater appreciation of the bigger picture.
  • Empower your team – The best way for anyone to make good decisions is have all the facts. Don’t hoard info or rationale on why you want to do something.

What are you doing to keep good people?

5 Reasons to Consider a Trade

June 3, 2015

Today, we have guest blog from Julian Groneberg of AEG Powertools, who will be discussing some of the top benefits of entering the trade business.

Working as a tradesman has more than its fair share of perks. From being your own boss, to having valued skill sets that will always be in demand, there are many reasons why people turn towards the blue-collar trades for a rewarding career. If you have thought about living the dream as a tradesman, read on for five of the biggest reasons why working as a tradesman offers plenty of benefits.


1. Trade Skills Are Always in Demand

As a tradesman, your skills are always in demand, and these skills are becoming increasingly required due to skill shortages in many areas, particularly in the more specialized trades. Many trades, including plumbing, mechanics and electric work, are considered recession proof, with their tasks unlikely to be performed by robots or computers in the future. The high level of technical skill required in most trades means there will always be demand, which means greater job security compared to many other industries.

2. No Lengthy Study or Massive Student Debt

Instead of a massive debt for a degree that may or may not guarantee you a job when you graduate, tradespeople often wind up with quite manageable debts because they learn a lot of their skills while on the job. This means they can start earning money right away and avoid the stress of repaying sizeable student loans while they look for employment. The on-the-job training tradesmen receive makes them very employable and opens up lots of options, even during the early stages of their careers.

3. Be Your Own Boss

A large percentage of tradespeople work for themselves, setting their own hours and deciding which contracts they want to take. Tradespeople also have the potential to grow their own business (and their income) as they become more established, with greater earning potential than other fields where incomes remain static.

While there are costs associated with running what is essentially your own business, including insurance and having to purchase tools from specialty suppliers, the flexibility of being your own boss is something that’s too good to pass up. This flexibility makes it a very appealing career option for many who like to be in charge of their own destiny.

4. High Sense of Satisfaction

As a tradesman, there’s a high degree of self-satisfaction getting your hands dirty creating something that people will use and developing solutions that will make lives better. Every day as a tradesman is a challenge, but you’ll never be bored sitting idly behind a desk watching the clock. Whether it’s the construction of a brand new home, installing an eco-friendly lighting design in a new office building or creating a seamless kitchen perfect for cooking, the projects that tradesmen work on can be extremely varied with a very tangible finished product. This variety and sense of purpose offers a high level of satisfaction for any tradesperson.

5. High Earning Potential

While the income ceiling for white-collar workers may be higher, the reality is that the average white-collar worker salary sits at about the same or lower than that of a skilled tradesperson. For tradesmen who show management potential and entrepreneurial ability, their earning potential can be virtually uncapped and will outperform those in many other industries.


Julian Groneberg is a Brisbane-based freelance writer for AEG Powertools. When he’s not bashing away at the keyboard writing engaging content, he’s out eating his way through as many local food establishments as is humanly and financially possible.

What other reasons are there to be a tradie? Share your insights in the comments below.

Are Your Print Ads Effective? Here’s How You Can Find Out.

June 2, 2015

By Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer at Sonnhalter

ChemicalProcessingJan2015-Ad StudyIf your company currently has a print advertising program in the trade publications, did you know that many of these publications offer ad readership studies at no additional cost to the advertiser? These studies are usually completed once or twice a year, on ads half-page or larger in size. A sample of the publication’s readers are invited to respond to the questions, and are encouraged to give feedback on the various ads in the issue being studied.

The average ad readership study will tell you:

  • If your ad is attention-getting
  • If your ad is believable
  • If your ad is informative

You’ll also get verbatim comments on your ad – actual quotes from the readers that let you know what message they received from your ad.

Comparing your ad’s results with other ads in the issue, both higher and lower scoring, will give you an idea of the creative approach that can best reach that particular audience, and you can adjust your creative accordingly.

Another type of ad study offered by some publications, also done at no additional cost for advertisers, gives scores based on whether the reader recalls seeing the ad or recalls reading the ad. While the results represent a small sampling of the magazine’s total circulation, they do reflect the opinion and commentary of readers who are the most active, providing insight into how the general audience may react to the advertising.

So if you’re interested in learning how your ads are performing in the markets you’re active in, consider placing a print ad in those issues offering the readership studies. If you’re not sure if the publications you advertise in offer these studies, be sure to ask your agency or magazine sales rep to find out for you.

Following are links to the advertising pages for just a few trade publications that offer these types of studies:

The Challenges of Being Seen, Heard and Read

May 20, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Everyone is getting better at resisting all the interruption-driven ads and promotions. Your customers are taking control of what they want to read or look at.

So what’s the answer? Quit selling and start giving them what they want (helpful content), where they want it and when they want it.

I recently read a post by George Stenitzer on Content Marketing Institute that talked about when more people are saying no to ads, what options do we have to get your message in front of them?

He cites some amazing stats:

  • Mobile has taken over as the first screen to view content
  • Over 50% of Americans record TV shows and don’t watch commercials
  • 91% of consumers unsubscribe or unlike brands for which they once opted in for

George gives us some helpful ways to make sure your content is seen and read.

  1. Permission is golden – If someone allows us to share info with them, make sure you give them good relevant content (it’s not about you).
  2. Give them what they want – A small percentage of your content will outperform the rest. Use your analytics to give them more of the same.
  3. Earn their attention in 7 seconds (23 words) – In the battle for attention, you need to answer the question quickly of what’s in it for them. Use images where possible.
  4. Keep customer info up to date – If you’re trying to be more personal and have the wrong info, you’ve lost the battle before it started.

These tips are not earth shattering, but a good reminder of what sets good content apart from the other self promotions.

4 Trades That Are Crucial to the Construction Industry

May 19, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post on behalf of WIA (Welding Industries of Australia) on four trades that are crucial for the construction industry.

Whether you live in a small town or a large city, you rely on the construction industry to provide infrastructure. From large corporations to modest family households, the construction industry is responsible for creating buildings that shelter you. But while we may depend on this industry for many things, the industry itself relies on several specialized trades. Here are four of the trades that are vital to the field of construction.

1. Electricians

Readi609_3399637ng at night, keeping cool in the summer, using computers at work or cooking a meal, there’s a seemingly endless list of day-to-day activities that are made possible by electricians. In our modern society, there’s no doubt that any building without electrical wiring would be virtually useless; the construction industry wouldn’t get very far without the skills of electricians. And while these tradespeople generally get paid well (U.S. News puts the average salary for electricians at around $50,000), there are certainly drawbacks to this profession. Aside from limited promotion opportunities and a lack of flexibility, electricians also face the very real risk of injury or death on a daily basis. According to Electrical Contractor magazine, 143 or so construction workers die due to electrocution each year, with about 34 percent of these individuals being electrical workers. It’s little wonder electricians experience above-average stress levels on the job.

2. Carpenters

Most of the wooden furni432_2980060ture you use, timber floors you walk on and wooden walls and beams that support the roof over your head are the handiwork of carpenters. When you consider that the majority of homes in the U.S. are constructed with timber frames, the importance of carpentry becomes even more obvious. With over 900,000 carpenters in the country and projections for this number to rapidly grow, this trade is clearly an important part of the construction industry. Fortunately, the decent working conditions and respectable average salary of about $45,000 should see this trade continue to flourish in the future.

3. Welders

Welders, often categorized together with cutters, solderers and brazers, are essentially the metal equivalent of carpenters. From manufacturing household appliances, to building race cars, there is a uniquely diverse range of projects that a skilled welder can find themselves working on. While less known than other trades, welding is an extremely valuable element of the construction industry.430_4403220

Welders require thorough training and often need to earn credentials before landing their first job. Sometimes, they also have to invest in their own equipment from a specialist provider like WIA. These factors may contribute to the fact that welding is the only trade on this list that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted will decline in number moving towards 2022. According to this Forbes article, welding is one of the main fields in which an older average population of workers could lead to a shortage in the near future. This means that welding is not just a crucial trade for the construction industry, it’s also a worthwhile career path for young aspiring tradespeople.

4. Plumbers

Similar to electricians, plumbers are essential in the construction of any contemporary building. They also become vital tradespeople when you want to renovate a bathroom, decide to add an en suite to your home or have any toilet issues. 609_3677189The task of keeping our pipes and water systems functioning smoothly employs about 390,000 plumbers in the U.S., and this number is expected to grow much faster than the average profession this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This steady growth is likely due to the construction industry’s (and society’s) consistent demand for plumbing work, combined with the healthy average salary of around $49,000 and the job satisfaction that comes from regularly making a difference to the lives of other people.

There are many trades that form integral parts of the construction industry – these are just four of the most crucial ones. Reflecting on the important role these tradespeople play can help us appreciate and understand why pursuing a trade can be a lucrative and very fulfilling path.

Why Forecasting and Budgeting are Vital to Success

May 6, 2015

Today, we have a guest blog from Emily Hunter on the importance of forecasting and budgeting when making smart financial and HR decisions in planning a successful business model.

Adjust sales budget concept

Why Forecasting and Budgeting are Vital to Success

There are countless aspects to running a successful enterprise, and forecasting and budgeting are amongst the most important. Without a proper focus on these aspects, a business can easily spend too much money, make errors in hiring and have different departments in a company working toward competing goals. Let’s take a look at some of the more important reasons that budgeting and forecasts are so vital to keeping your business in sync.

Planning for the Unexpected

One mishap or emergency can sometimes spell disaster for the entire company. Being ill-prepared for these events can result in a company going out of business or, best-case scenario, having a long run of unprofitable months. This is where budgeting and forecasting models are so essential. Though a time may never come when a contingency plan is necessary, having one in place is still important.

Forecasting potential issues can help a company stay afloat if, for instance, a top producer in the corporation departs. Having a financial plan set up to keep a company going strong in this instance, and in many others, prevents any one department, individual or another aspect of a company from being the only thing keeping it successful.

Making Appropriate HR Decisions

Some companies hire an overabundance of new employees with the idea that they’ll need them in the long run. This can be an unfortunate decision if proper budgeting and forecasting solutions aren’t implemented. Discovering that unnecessary resources are being spent can sometimes result in angry former employees and increased unemployment insurance costs.

Fortunately, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions can help in this situation. Because these types of tools allow multiple departments to simultaneously access information and data related to inventory management, product planning, marketing and a variety of other aspects, it’s easier to forecast staffing needs instead of making pointless hires. In the end, this can save untold expenditures in training and other human resources expenses.

Improving Income Statements

Operational plans are essential to forecasting projected income for a corporation. Making them more efficient is a great way to improve budgeting and forecasts, and thus be prepared for events which could impact a company’s progress. Creating these plans is much easier and produces better results when cash flow statements and balance sheets are integrated between all departments.

Increasing Good Collaboration

Effective budgeting and forecasting tools can also ensure that collaborative projects run much more smoothly and efficiently at any company. Simply imagine an individual ordering inventory without realizing that another employee has just made a huge sale that will diminish much that is on hand. Similarly, someone focusing solely on inventory without realizing that the approaching month’s sales will be slower can result in overstock.

ERP software can go a long way to prevent such mistakes from occurring. All employees who would benefit from access to the forecast model can be added to the shared permissions for any collaborative sections. This allows for more cooperative human resources; when each employee knows the full circle of their tasks, it is less likely that costly mistakes will be made.

Recognizing Growth Opportunities

Properly created budgeting and forecasting models allow a company to make informed decisions on whether or not they can expand. By using the reports derived from this data, it’s possible to answer questions such as: “Can we afford another employee in Department X,” or “Will increasing production result in enough sales to still cover overhead costs while still turning a profit?”

There are not many aspects of a company that the elements of forecasting and budgeting do not directly affect. Because of this, an ERP software solution containing these elements is certainly amongst the best software investment a budding entrepreneur can include in their budget. The aforementioned benefits are just a small sampling of what a successful budgeting and forecasting model can do to ensure your company’s ultimate success.

Emily Hunter is a SEM Strategist and Outreach Supervisor at the Marketing Zen Group, working closely with TGO Consulting. She loves designing strategies with her team and is excited about spreading the Zen gospel. In her spare time, she cheers for Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, crafts her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen

Did Your Website Survive Mobilegeddon?

May 5, 2015

And Did You Know It Happened?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter


(image courtesy of CNET)

On April 21st, Google changed its search results algorithm.

Sounds boring, right? Well the results of that change may impact your business more than you think. As of that Tuesday, nicknamed Mobilegeddon by various media outlets, the mobile friendliness of a site is now a more important factor in ranking mobile search results. Why the change? Because the way we access the web is changing.

Last year, it was estimated that over half (60% by some estimates) of all online traffic was from mobile devices. Facebook reports that 85% of daily access to its site is from mobile devices, and last holiday season, Amazon stated that 60% of all sales were from, you guessed it, mobile. At the same time, Google’s dominance in mobile has slipped. As more and more mobile search comes from apps rather than true search, so has their share of traffic and revenue. In 2014, they reported 68% of all mobile search revenue. Impressive, but dramatically down from the 82.8% only 2 years earlier.

So What Can You Do?

First and foremost, find out how mobile friendly your website is. Google has a site, here, that will score your site (tradesmeninsights.com scores an “awesome”) Now that you know, there are several steps you can take:

  • Add some elements to your pages to make them more user-friendly:
    • Have text that is readable without tapping or zooming
    • Make sure tap targets are spaced appropriately
    • Avoid unplayable content and horizontal scrolling
  • The update applies to individual pages, not entire websites, so make sure your most critical pages such as product pages, receive mobile makeovers first.
  • Pages being a good search match still trump mobile-friendliness, so make sure you know how people search. Customers probably aren’t searching by product number, so make sure your pages contain common keywords and industry-specific slang.
  • This new criteria only applies to mobile searches, so know how your customers are finding you. It may be that you don’t need a mobile strategy right now. But keep in mind that the biggest name in search has a mobile strategy, so soon you’ll need one too.


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