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The AARP Spikes Investigation Into Age Discrimination By The U.S. Government

The AARP has spiked the publication of an investigative story about systemic age discrimination in recruitment and hiring by the U.S. government.

The 4,000-word story is one of two articles that the AARP commissioned for the January 2020 edition of the AARP Bulletin. The other story, said to be an overview of age discrimination in employment, is still slated for publication.

The AARP, which has 38 million dues paying members, did not respond on Sunday to requests for comment by email and telephone.

Why would the AARP, which claims to advocate for Americans aged 50+, jettison an important story about age discrimination in hiring by the U.S. government? 

A source close to the matter, who asked not to be identified, said senior officials at the AARP killed the story due to political considerations and to avoid risking the loss of federal grant funding.

The AARP in 2017 was awarded $74.4 million for job training services from the U.S. Department of Labor and $9.6 million from the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax assistance to seniors.

According to Axios, the AARP is one of the largest media companies in the country, earning more than $174 million annually in media-based advertising revenue. The AARP Bulletin has the 2nd-highest circulation in the country.

The AARP and its nine subsidiaries earned an estimated $1.65 billion in annual revenue in 2018.

Age Discrimination

Little media attention has been paid to the federal government’s role in perpetuating age discrimination in the United States.

Since 2012,  the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) has operated a program called the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program that permits federal agencies to discriminate based on age in the recruitment and hiring of workers. The program was created by former President Barack Obama in 2010 through Executive Order #13562. It allows federal agencies to restrict applications for job vacancies to individuals who graduated from a qualified educational institution within the preceding two years.

The program not only harms older workers by arbitrarily excluding them from federal jobs but it sends a message to the private sector that age discrimination is acceptable.

Pursuant to a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request, the OPM said about 93 percent of applicants hired for 92,193 jobs under the Pathway “Recent Graduate” Program from 2012 to 2017 were under the age of 40. The Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program is a classic example of “disparate impact discrimination,” where a seemingly neutral policy has disproportionate and adverse impact on older workers.

The OPM has said the program will continue until it is invalidated by a sitting president. So far President Trump has shown no inclination to halt the program.

A source said the remaining AARP article refers briefly to age discrimination by the federal government.

Political Headwinds

The AARP increasingly finds itself in difficulty due to its conflicting roles as the self-proclaimed advocate for older Americans and as the leading purveyor of supplemental health insurance to older Americans who are Medicare recipients.

Last summer, the AARP engaged in a public tiff with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) regarding a Trump administration proposal to encourage insurers to pass prescription drug rebates through to older Americans to lower their out-of-pocket costs. Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers now negotiate rebates with drug companies and often don’t share savings with seniors.

Research shows the rate of U.S. citizens over the age of 65 who are filing for bankruptcy increased about 204% from 1991 to 2016 due largely to the unmanageable costs of health care.

The AARP opposed changing the rebate pass-through formula and launched a major lobbying campaign, AARP’s Stop Rx Greed campaign, to cut the high cost of prescription drugs. Declaring Oct. 29 to be a national action day, AARP officials and volunteers fanned out across the country to encourage lawmakers to pass legislation to lower drug prices.

Against this backdrop, the future of health care is being debated among Democratic Presidential hopefuls, some of whom support a universal healthcare model that would presumably eliminate older American’s need for supplemental healthcare insurance.

How the U.S. Congress comes down on the issue of prescription drug rebates, drug prices and universal health care could have a major impact on AARP’s annual revenue of more than $1.6 billion.

The AARP also is facing multiple federal class action lawsuits for allegedly violating state insurance laws by failing to register as a “de facto agent” for UnitedHealthCare Insurance Company and for allegedly pocketing a hidden 4.95 % payment assessed to seniors with the sale of each supplemental health insurance policy. The AARP refers to the fee as a “royalty” for allowing insurers to use AARP’s intellectual property.

Source: Forbes – Leadership
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My Favorite Holiday Commercials – So Far

Some of the best commercials of the year come out during the holidays. They are feel-good, entertaining commercials that are grandly produced. They often tearjerkers playing on the theme of nostalgia. They are often about bonding and reunions, a meaningful theme during the holidays, when people go home to visit friends and family.

Here are my favorites:

11. “Gift The Thought”

Advertiser: Gap

Agency: Johannes Leonardo

In a departure from the typical jazzy musical numbers of previous campaigns, this time it pursues a more emotional tone by following a young boy growing up, his single mother, and his red Gap hoodie.

10. “Christmas Is What You Make Of It”

Advertiser: Hobby Lobby

Agency: The Richards Group

Still under the banner of single mothers, Hobby Lobby shows a teenager who surprises a busy working mom by decorating their Christmas tree and even doing the laundry so she can rest. 

9. “Gift It Forward” 

Advertiser: Pepsi

Agency: VaynerMedia

Pepsi’s new holiday campaign encourages consumers to give the gift of cash, enlisting rapper Cardi B to spread the word.

8. “Special Delivery”

Advertiser: New York Lottery

Agency: McCann

In this charmingly whimsical ad, woodland creatures come to the rescue of a park ranger who had lost a lottery scratch card. 

7. “First Christmas”

Advertiser: Oreo

Agency: The Martin Agency

An elf – a new  on the job – hurries into a convenience store in search for Oreo cookies for Santa and picks up several packages of the cookies and an orange soda… Oops!! Wrong combo.

6. “My Favorite Things”

Advertiser: Frito-Lay

Agency: In-House

“My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” has been transformed into a Christmas-meets-snacking musical extravaganza with actress Anna Kendrick. 

5. “The Time Shop”

Advertiser: Chick-fil-A

Agency: McCann

This spot shows a daughter trying and failing to spend quality time with her family, that is, until she discovers a magic “Time Shop” located inside a grandfather clock.

4. “Santa Girl”

Advertiser: Macy’s

Agency: BBDO

The spot taps into evolving gender roles as a young girl aspires to be Santa, despite a bully’s jeers about a beard. She is helped by her parents to get her wish. 

3. “Lucy and the Reindeer”

Advertiser: Microsoft

Agency: McCann

A girl is using a tablet translator, in trying to communicate with a pair of raindeer. Once she realizes, she’s able to translate their snorts into a stream of charming questions about Santa follow.

2. “The Surprise”

Advertiser: Apple

Agency: TBWA/MAL

In this sentimental spot, a family is shown visiting their grandfather, a recent widower. The parents have given their children an iPad to keep them busy on the long trip which later enables them to create a touching tribute.

1.    “A Holiday Reunion”

Advertiser: Xfinity

Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

E.T. is home. The beloved extraterrestrial reunites with Elliott (played by a grown-up actor Henry Thomas) in a sequel to the blockbuster movie.  E.T. meets Elliott’s family, while learning about new advances like the internet and virtual reality. 

Source: Forbes – Leadership
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Meet The Colombian Teen Who Can’t Wait To Be Weightless Again

High above Canada, Colombian teenager Ivanna Hernandez was briefly weightless, as a special aircraft ran through a parabolic arc – but for her, this was just the start of what she hopes will be an interplanetary journey.

Hernandez, 16, lives in Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, but the eyes of this aspiring astronaut have been firmly fixed on the stars ever since she caught Carl Sagan’s Cosmos program on television.

“The first time I saw Cosmos, I couldn’t help being fascinated with its beautiful images, explanations and stories about the universe and the people who have dedicated themselves to studying it,” she said, “It was like love at first sight, I was soon full of emotion every time the program started and then I was researching and reading books on my own about black holes, galaxies and about astronomy in general.”

It was that passion which landed her the opportunity in October 2019 to experience microgravity on a parabolic flight of Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) Falcon-20 aircraft, as part of the PoSSUM microgravity challenge. She took two student space experiments from Colombia with her: her own and one from students in La Guajira, Colombia.

“I am very proud to be the winner of the first PoSSUM 13 International Microgravity Flight Challenge and to be part of the first team made up only of women in the history of the microgravity challange of Project Possum,” she said, “Floating in microgravity feels exactly like falling into a vacuum and when you’ve been floating for a few seconds it’s like being in the water, but without the resistance it gives you.”

So far, Hernandez says, she’s also had the opportunity to participate in space camps, global competitions, scientific experiments , seminars and congresses – but it has not been an easy run for a young woman originally from La Guajira, an underdeveloped rural part of Colombia.

“In my country there is not much visibility of the role of women in science or of people with initiatives in STEAM, there is not much support and incentives – The main role models in our society are singers, soccer players, models, actresses, etc.”

Ivanna Hernandez, student scientist

She says although more and more Colombian are studying STEAM subjects (Science, Technologies, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) there is not enough support from the government to disseminate the great achievements and advances of Colombian scientists.

“Because of this, my goal is to be able to inspire more young people to enter the STEAM world through each of my experiences and achievements –if you want to fly high, you must dream big!”, she said,

“Another difficulty that I still find today is the lack of support from institutions and the government to provide resources to programs that educate children and communities in STEAM and can participate in events both nationally and international.”

My goal is to be the first Latin American woman to be an astronaut and go to Mars, and be able to share my adventures and experiences with more children and people all around the world.

Ivanna Hernandez, student scientist

Hernandez is not the only teen from Colombia’s northern coast with eyes on the stars.

On 20 June 2019, a NASA sounding rocket blasted off from Wallops Island off the coast of Virginia, USA, carrying student science experiments, including a solar cell science project from Nestor Epinayu, 16, and his fellow students from a Wayuu indigenous community in La Guajira, on the border with Venezuela.

These students were able to launch their experiments by winning a spot in the Cubes in Space project, with the support of Clubes de Ciencia Colombia and Del Lab al Campo.

“This is a new feat for the country, for my department [state], La Guajira and for the Wayuu, since they are one of the most vulnerable communities in Colombia,” Hernandez said.

She said this is an example of efforts made by Colombian professionals can make a difference in the daily lives of communities where there are no basic services, such as drinking water, electricity and food security.

“It is these opportunities that mark us and motivate us to continue putting our effort to continue researching and doing science,” she said.

Source: Forbes – Leadership
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How Carol Cox Is Helping Women Speakers Get Paid What They Deserve

When it comes to public speaking, several studies have demonstrated gender differences in the amount of female versus male speakers. Female speakers are often underrepresented and underpaid. Public speaking can be a lucrative side hustle or full-time gig for anyone trying to market themselves and amplify their message. For women who want to use public speaking to brand themselves, learning the tricks of the trade and how to best position themselves as experts in their field is critical. Carol Cox is a speaker, podcaster, professor and CEO helping women to do just that. Carol founded Speaking Your Brand, a company designed to “help high-performing, purpose-driven women entrepreneurs and professionals create their signature talks (keynotes, TEDx, business presentation) to grow their business and become recognized as influencers in their fields.” Carol sat down with Forbes to discuss how women can craft speeches that resonate with their audience, how to best negotiate speaker rates, and how to deliver your message with clarity, confidence and conviction.

Janice Gassam: Why did you decide to start Speaking Your Brand? What is your company’s mission?

Carol Cox: So, I started Speaking Your Brand in 2015 because I had been speaking as part of the previous businesses that I had owned, which were in the technology software development space. I had been speaking at conferences…I enjoyed it, I got great feedback. People always asked me to help them with their presentations, so…I was exiting out of the technology industry, wanting to work more with people than with code, and so…I was brainstorming business ideas and talking to friends and this is one thing that was suggested and that I had thought about. At the time, this was again 2015 and…I was very much involved in women in tech and women in leadership…it just seemed like a perfect blend to be able to use a skillset that I had developed that also helped women to develop that skillset for themselves but also the confidence to get out there and share their message…our mission is to help more women develop the communication skills, platform and confidence to step into leadership, influence, and power, on stages, in the media, in business, on boards, and in politics.

Gassam: You’ve worked with many women entrepreneurs to help them develop their signature talks. What are some common mistakes women make when giving keynote and signature talks?

Cox: We help our clients with two different types of talks primarily. We have the ones where woman are doing it for lead generation, building brand awareness for what they do in their business and for generating leads…that’s a core part of the work that I do. I would say the biggest mistake that I see women make is they actually don’t put any sales messaging in their presentations at all. I know we’ve all been…told not to ‘sell from the stage’…what has happened is that then, especially as women, we tend not to be very good at promoting ourselves and so then we end up taking out all sales messaging in the presentation itself, but actually if you do a really great job with your content, and you lead the audience to understanding that there is a solution to the problem that they’re experiencing, they want the help. You’re actually doing a disservice to them by not at least helping them see how you can help them. There’s ways that you can do that in the presentation content, without it coming across as sale-sy…what a lot of women fear is they don’t want to be seen as sale-sy…but there’s ways of doing it where you’re helping the audience without feeling sale-sy.

The other thing we help our clients with is keynotes and TEDx talks…I think the biggest mistake that I’ve seen women make on that is that they don’t feel comfortable yet really standing on a soapbox and proclaiming what it is that they see is wrong in their industry…they are a little too tentative to take strong stance, but that’s what makes a really great keynote and it makes a great TEDx talk, is taking that strong stance, of course backed up with support.

Gassam: In your experiences, what are some ways that women can convey their message with ‘clarity, conviction and confidence?’

Cox: The first way is to find that support. It’s hard to develop this on your own because you can’t see your big idea from within your own headspace…because you’re too close to your own content…for someone to say ‘oh, pull on that thread a little bit.’ So, that would be the one thing. The other thing is that…to develop the confidence and comfort with the material, it’s repetition…so sharing your message a lot. So, speaking of course…speaking in front of a group of people is one of those ways to do that but so is being a guest on podcasts, doing videos online, different sales conversations…the more that you are talking about your message, the more comfortable and more confident you will feel about it and also as you get good feedback you will develop that confidence, because you will find that your message is resonating with people…the third thing for developing that clarity, conviction and confidence is to find a group of women that can give you that support and structure…close friends, colleagues, some group that you talk to virtually every month or so…people to go, to help you.

Gassam: A lot of research says that even when women speak on topics where they are very knowledgeable, the public is more likely to question their authority. How do you think women can best position themselves as experts in their field?

Cox: So, a few things come to mind. Whatever it is that your topic is…bring in that third-party research, data: other people who have said similar things, studies that support what it is that you’re talking about…if you’re hearing someone talk and they reference other big names, or universities that have done studies related to it, it just adds to the credibility of what you’re talking about. Don’t be afraid of bringing in that third party research…the second thing is, find other people to tout what it is that you do…to call you an expert…that could be…a support group of friends, colleagues in your industry, so that they can share information about you. The other thing is, things like writing a book, being an author, doing other things that give you that market credibility, joining a board, whether it’s a non-profit organization or corporate board…other third parties to help add to your credibility and expertise.

Gassam: There is a lot of research also on the pay disparities between male and female speakers. When it comes to negotiating your rate, how do you think women speakers can best negotiate for a competitive rate?

Cox: The first thing is, you probably need to ask for more than whatever your first inclination is. We tend to underprice ourselves as women. I’ve seen advice to take whatever you think you want to ask for and double it…if that makes you uncomfortable, that’s probably a good thing…the second thing is, a lot of times it takes someone else to say to you, ‘I really think you should double your rate.’ So, if you hear that from a few people, then that could also give you the confidence to do that. The third thing is…if you are being asked to speak at an event, and there is a budget for speakers and you’re in negotiations is to ask them, ‘are you paying your female speakers equitably?’ And that may give a pause…but that could give you some indication of what is going on and then you can decide what to do with that. You can also ask other speakers what they’re getting paid…as far as for negotiation, if you have an assistant, a virtual assistant or an executive assistant who you work with, sometimes it’s easier for them to send the negotiation email on your behalf so you can create a little bit of distance from yourself so then they’re sending it and they’re negotiating. Then you may feel more comfortable and more confident in asking for those higher fees.

Gassam: What are some of the best tools for female entrepreneurs to grow their business?

Cox: I’m an avid reader…a podcast listener as well…the book that comes to mind is…Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz…and then there’s another book called Built to Sell…especially for women entrepreneurs, we tend to take on too many things and we tend to be hesitant to ask for help or to ask for help as early as we can, so both of those books really give you a perspective of how to structure your business so that number one, you’re not the one doing everything, and number two, the business is all about you. You want the business to grow without you being the…linchpin.

For more information about Carol can help you develop your signature talk, visit her website.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Source: Forbes – Leadership
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A Conversation with The Knot’s Dhanusha Sivajee on the Need for CMOs to be Entrepreneurs, Builders + Agents of Inclusionary Change

We are in an interesting period of business transformation which is placing the customer at the heart of every enterprise, no matter who you are, or what you’re selling. As a result, the role of the CMO continues to morph, evolve and rise in importance. Today’s marketing leaders need to go way beyond brand stewardship to focus on everything impacting the consumer experience from culture, to product development, to brand actions that incite inclusion and meaningful change. 

With that all in mind, I thought it would be great to speak to a marketing visionary with a wide breadth of experience who could put a fine point on all of these new challenges and opportunities. For my most recent column, I had the privilege of sitting down with Dhanusha Sivajee of The Knot. With notable stints at iconic brands such as HBO and Bloomberg, her career is emblematic of a commitment to excellence, exemplified by best-in-class marketing innovation and leadership. 

We had the opportunity to talk about everything from the need for marketing and product to work hand-in glove, to the evolution of diversity and inclusion as issues that require less idle rhetoric and more meaningful action. Following is a recap of our conversation:

Billee Howard: So great to talk with you again! Why don’t we start with the evolving idea of the customer needing to be at the heart of everything. Whatever you’re selling, or doing, the whole future is about experience and the CMO is in the driver’s seat perhaps now more than ever before. Can you talk to me a little bit about all that?

Dhanusha Sivajee: We are a digital company. We don’t necessarily have to segment our customers the way you would if you have a physical product based on price point. It’s one digital product. The great thing is that we can use our twenty years of data to essentially personalize each experience for the user. 

So for us, what we’re doing is an end-to-end solution for people planning their weddings. That goes from what they need in terms of inspiration, registry creation and management, to what’s their style, their budget, where do they live, and then finding the right vendors that meet those needs.  What I’ve found so amazing about this job is that we rely on our data to really serve up very personalized recommendations based on who the customer is and what they’re looking for to plan a wedding that’s uniquely them. For us, it’s not just this machine that’s essentially setting that all up. We are creating an experience that actually feels like you have your own personal planner sitting right next to you. We’re really smart about having our product and marketing work hand-in-hand to make sure we’re building features and functionality that meet our user’s needs. We are always really focused on a sense of feeling the brand offers, not just what it does. 

Howard: There is a lot there I’d like to unpack that goes to a lot of the things we’ve chatted about in the past. You are successful at building rich experiences because you are agile and extremely dynamic as a brand. I believe a lot of that comes from your roots as a “cradle-to-grave” entrepreneur. It’s a nice imprint that gives you a really nimble and disruptive POV. What are your thoughts?

Sivajee: I was brought up by entrepreneurs. So my mom and my dad both moved to England from Sri Lanka during the civil wars. They were immigrants to England. I was born there, but they had no formal education to speak of, had to put food on the table and essentially had every kind of small business. They’ve had bingo halls, gas stations, corner stores, laundromats, and post offices. I didn’t really know anything different growing up. 

I went to school, came back home and worked. I spent most nights and weekends working for my mom and dad, so without realizing it, when I went to college, I took a couple of classes and when the professor got up and said okay this is what marketing is, I was like “Oh, okay.” I’d been doing that for years with my parents in terms of thinking about who the customer was, what their needs were and how to quickly come to market. 

It actually wasn’t until I first talked to you that I thought about the entrepreneurial world and how that comes to bear so often in my professional life. I think it comes up in a lot of different ways. The first is probably through the culture. A big part of the CMO job is thinking about the values and the culture of the company and how that comes to life, both internally and externally. At a company like ours, now even though we are the leading global wedding brand in the world, and we have seventeen hundred employees in fifteen countries, everyone still has this startup mentality. A lot of the values that I’ve helped set lead back to that. 

A great example is process for process sake. Don’t show me that you’re doing a lot of things. Let’s focus on what the results are. I think when you’re an entrepreneur, you have no choice but to focus on the results. I’d say another thing is putting your user first, but also thinking about creating a culture where everyone’s opinion counts, yet moving and feeling fast. I think all CMOs need to think like entrepreneurs to build those types of cultures. 

Another terrific example of this is our new Lasting app. It’s designed to be a marriage therapy platform for couples. Our product director for The Knot conceived the idea. We loved the idea of bringing this into our family of brands, decided to fund it, and he became our entrepreneur in residence. That’s really bringing a startup culture, and the agility that comes along with it, to a multi-million dollar brand.

Howard: You’re one of the few CMOs who really does have a background in building stuff, making products, not just marketing them. I think that that’s something that’s only going to continue to be more and more pervasive. I’d like to talk to you about that and why it’s so important.

Sivajee: I’ve had the privilege of always being a marketer that has stayed close to product. It’s become so important as you have to drive awareness and get people into the product experience, whether it’s physical or digital. Even starting back from my days at HBO when we launched HBO GO, I was very lucky to be part of the team that brought product and marketing together. We really thought about what the brand stood for. What was the brand positioning of HBO and what did it look like when you were going online and could consume it anytime, anywhere? There needed to be a reason they paid for it, particularly as it was programming they couldn’t see on regular television.

When I was at Bloomberg, I was part of a very small team that was launching mobile experiences across all of Bloomberg’s media properties. It was everybody’s business to create the product and actually that was where I really learned the idea of product marketing and doing a lot more than just positioning work. I thought about the positioning at its fullest and in concert with the product features and functionality that led us up to that. That’s what a holistic approach looks like from where I sit.

Howard: People are struggling with bringing business and data tacticians together and often CMOs are being tasked with helping instigate that fusion. What are your thoughts on that?

Sivajee: You’re absolutely right. I think what’s really key is becoming cross-functional at the point when you’ve got a large enough organization where you do have functional expertise. What we’ve found is no matter what your functional expertise, the leaders that rise up to the top are the ones that can look across all of the set strategies and bring all of the most critical elements together. The challenge for me is how do you bring all of those things together and set the right tone. We tend to focus on every team having their own individual goals. But, the companies focused on the broader “here’s what we’re trying to do,” are the ones who do it best. Going to market with a new product isn’t something that’s owned by product or marketing. It’s owned by both teams, including the data teams. It’s a joint goal for the company and everyone knows that. Yes, they’ve got some functional expertise in there, but actually the thing that’s really important is that it comes together seamlessly and the leaders of those teams are setting the strategy together. 

Howard: Over the last twenty years people have said every company needs to be a technology company. I believe that view has evolved and that today every brand needs to think of themselves as a media company. You obviously have that background and are executing on a lot of those thoughts at The Knot, particularly with your twin-pronged marketplace. Tell me your thoughts.

Sivajee: I have two thoughts on it. I think the first is just more tied to the business model which is historically where we first started at The Knot. We were a publisher with an online digital website and print magazine. For all intents and purposes our monetization strategy was as a media business. We wrote content, we sold ads against it, and also got into custom content. It was a very traditional media model. I’m really proud of the fact that over the last five years what we’ve done is transition from being a media only business model, to being a two-sided marketplace. It’s  not about writing content for content sake. It’s about connecting our users and matching them to just the right products and services. Every company, whether they have been a legacy media business like us, or evolving to be more like one, needs to realize it’s about making those connections and monetizing them in different ways as opposed to just thinking about it like a traditional publisher who puts an ad next to the right content. 

So, we are two-sided marketplace. What I love about our business is that it’s not just about the couples that we’re serving and helping them through their problems. We have 300,000 small businesses around the country that we are helping because we’re working with them to build their businesses by making those connections with the couples. That’s another reason why I love what I do. We are not only helping our users, but also helping entrepreneurs in the creative space really grow their businesses because they have a passion for what they do. 

Howard: The other thing in your background that we’ve touched on a few times that I think a lot of people are grappling with is yes, the ability to have the right mobile experience, but also having it in a way that actually reflects the dynamism that is expected today. What are your thoughts or advice on that front?

Sivajee: Sure. We have over eighty percent of our user base now on mobile whether it’s on mobile web or using our app. What we found is, in this digital age, you can’t just create a mobile Web site and say “we’re done.” You have to think about how people consume that information and how they’re going to use their devices differently. One example we find is that people are going to a lot of different places to find inspiration for their weddings, but we also found that when it was time to contact their vendors, they had no way on their mobile phones. They’re looking for their vendors and using The Knot and to do that, but they didn’t have a way of sharing those ideas with the vendor. This was a critical thing for us to respond to as a big part is the vendor actually understanding what type of wedding you want. Is it rustic, or nautical or chic or all? So, we actually created a style quiz and a style card that essentially is a baseball card for organizing your ideas in a way that you can actually share them. Those are the type of nuanced, dynamic things marketers need to be thinking of when innovating around mobile right now.

Howard: Really cool. I have been having a lot of conversations with people about what I’m calling “inclusion fatigue” because I think a lot of people are checking the box here, but it feels like more rhetoric than action. It’s akin to what we’ve seen with brands overdoing it with brand purpose. What do you think?

Sivajee: I think it’s a very interesting point. For us, the way we look at inclusion is that it has been part of our mission from day one. I’ve only been here five years, but I walked into a company where from day one we said we want to make it easy for couples to plan a wedding that is uniquely their own, no matter their style, their budget, their sexual orientation, gender etc. 

I think inclusion fatigue comes from brands not being authentic in their actions and just jumping on that bandwagon.I’m really proud to be at this company that celebrates diversity and inclusion every day.

We had our first same sex marriage in 1999 when a couple both named Kimmy, the “Two Kimmies” they called themselves, won our millennium dream wedding contest. So for me, inclusion is a very easy thing to do here because it’s just part of who we are. It’s part of our mission and our culture. In fact, our current issue is focused on size inclusivity and features model and body positivity activist Hunter McGrady on the cover. 

We make sure that our content is reflective. You see yourself in our content in our products. So with dresses as an example, we are now pushing wedding fashion designers to really make sure they are designing for all sizes. It’s a great example of how brands need to walk the walk.

Source: Forbes – Leadership
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The Best Hotels In Corfu Island For Business Travelers, 2020

Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, welcomes nature and peace lovers from across the world to experience the historical richness, untouched pristine beaches, and warm Greek hospitality. From the Paleolithic era to the Phaeacians and Homer’s Odyssey, Corfu finds mention everywhere. Rich with Venetian style architecture, this island with over 217 km of coastline, rugged mountains, and sparkling bays is the perfect destination for nature lovers to spend holidays.

The mountainous northern part of the island is home to the highest peak Mt. Pantokrator and Stravoskiadi. The southern part of the island is mostly flat. The mild Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summer (average 20* C) and rainy winter (4-5*C) is perfect to enjoy Mediterranean sojourn. The island is just 600 km from Athens and flight takes just 45 minutes.

Major attractions of Corfu are the Achilleion Palace, Mon Repos, Kanoni and Pontikonisi, Angelokastro, Old & New Fortress, Vidos Island, Spianada Square, Palace of St. Michael and St. George, Canal d’Amour, Paleokastritsa, Glyfada, and Issos Beach.

  1. Corfu Mare Boutique Hotel
    5 Zervou Nikolaou, Corfu Town, Greece
    The right mix of Venetian architecture, tranquil surroundings, and warm Corfiot hospitality makes Corfu Mare Boutique Hotel’s favorite destination for leisure travelers. Situated perfectly in the green suburb just 1.5 km from the town, this “Eco Hotels of the World” member boutique hotel redefines luxury stay in Corfu. Elegantly designed 51 rooms and suites with CocoMat beds and modern amenities offers heavenly comfort to make your stay memorable. You have a Yoga and meditation center, fitness center and gym. A la carte restaurant offers you delicious healthy cuisines to rejoice.
  2. Corfu Palace Hotel
    Leof. Dimokratias 2, Kerkira, Greece
    Matching the pristine beauty of the island this elegantly built hotel, located in the heart of the city, offers you heavenly comfort to make your Mediterranean sojourn memorable. This 1954 property carries the traditional Venetian style and smartly blends it with contemporary luxuries to offer the best Greek experience. Beautifully furnished 106 rooms with the spectacular view of Garitsa Bay and the Mainland make it perfect for peace lovers.
  3. Arcadion Hotel
    2, Vlasopoulou Str Liston – Spianada, Kerkira, Greece
    Situated near the main square Esplanade, this exclusive ultra-luxe hotel is known for its Corfiot hospitality and world-class personalized services. Arcadion Hotels promises to meet your expectations with elegantly built rooms overlooking the arcades of Liston and the main square Esplanade. You have a rooftop bar to tastes the finest Greek wines and local beers.
  4. Cavalieri Hotel Corfu
    4 Capodistriou Street, Greece
    This 17th-century renovated-property is serving guests from across the world since the 1960s and has a loyal fan club of regular visitors. Cavalieri Hotel is one of the prominent luxury hotels in Corfu known for its historical heritage and 21st-century luxury. Located close to the Vlacherna Monastery (3.5 km), you have an advantage of proximity to prime landmarks. You can enjoy the handpicked drinks and delicious cuisines at the Cavalieri Roof Top Restaurant.
  5. Sunset Hotel
    Alykes, Potamou, Corfu Town, Greece
    If you looking for a perfect abode in Corfu with modernist amenities in a natural setting, then Sunset Hotel could be the best option in its class. Elegantly build spacious rooms with balcony and high windows make it the right choice for romantic couples. Located perfectly to explore major city attractions, the newly renovated property offers you spacious indoors and outdoors areas with a swimming pool and garden to relax.
  6. Hotel Atlantis
    48 Xenofontos Stratigou, St New Port, Greece
    This family-friendly hotel is ideally located to welcomes guests in elegantly built set up. Equipped with all modern amenities, all the rooms with the view of the beautiful city and natural surroundings make it perfect to relax in Corfu. Traditional Greek hospitality makes you feel like being in a home away from home.  Rated best by frequent travelers, this property is just 1 km from the Panagia Spiliotissa Metropolitan Church and 4 km from the Vlacherna Monastery.
  7. Siora Vittoria Boutique Hotel
    Stefanou Padova 36, Agios Rokkos, Greece
    If you are looking for accommodation that offers value, comfort, and convenience then Siora Vittoria is the right choice to enjoy a luxury stay on the pristine island. This small boutique hotel is rated best by travelers for its personalized services and the best in class amenities. This 1823 renovated aristocratic mansion, located at the old town of Corfu, offers you elegantly built rooms to have Venetian royal experience with modern amenities. You can enjoy delicious local delicacies at the city’s famous restaurants like Pikantiko, Loukas Grill, and Markas Taverna – Grill House.
  8. Hotel Bretagne
    K. Georgaki 27, Corfu Town, Greece
    Situated near the sea shore promenade of the wonderful Garitsa Bay this family-owned property is known for its warm and welcoming hospitality. Proximity to the International Airport (500 m) makes its favorite of business and leisure travelers. Smartly built 45 rooms with a focus on space and cleanliness, Bretagne offers you a luxury stay on the pristine island. You are just a 5-minute drive away from the vibrant Corfu Town center and the Esplanade with the Liston. The famous Mon Repos Beach is just 1 km away.
  9. Mediterranean Blue Resort
    Asprokavos, Kavos, Greece
    Nestled in olive and pine garden, this resort in the southernmost tip of Corfu, this property is a perfect natural retreat for clubbers. Rated best for Corfiot hospitality, this family-run property overlooking the Ionian Sea offers elegantly built traditional Venetian style rooms to makes your stay memorable. You have a wide range of options for rooms to match your requirements. The hotel is perfectly equipped to help you relax, refresh, recharge and start the excursion.
  10. Kyma Suites
    Acharavi, Greece
    Located on the tranquil beach of Almiros Bay on the northern coast of Corfu Island, Kyma Suites redefines comfort with the right blend of nature and modern elements. This beach-front boutique property amidst lush green dense vegetation offers well-furnished spacious rooms with large windows to enhance your relaxation. Honeymooners and romantic couples rate is best for personalized services and facilities. You are just 2.5 km away from Acharavi village and 11 km from Kassiopi village and rightly placed to enjoy cycling, hiking and beautiful walks on the beach.

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For those who are planning their next business trip, read on for our list of the world’s best cities for bleisure travelers. As you continue to travel, we continue to listen: Here are the best hotels for business travelers to stay in Athens, Crete, Kefalonia Island, Phuket, Canary Islands, Lanzarote Island, Malaga, Tenerife, and Menorca (Minorca),

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All You Need to Know About Enterprise Content Management

Businesses are cropping up every single day, and the competition seems to be getting stiffer. It is one thing to start a business and another thing to run a successful business. Making your business lucrative in this digital era calls for a lot of commitment, hard work, as well as the incorporation of some business tools. In this article, our primary focus will be on enterprise content management, what is it, and why is it essential for any business?

Enterprise content management (ECM)

Any business regardless of what it is dealing with should know that information is very vital. Taking a step back, most of the business information was stored in files, and this was quite hectic, especially if the business deals with a lot of data. Fortunately, digital technology has significantly revolutionized how data is stored nowadays. Access to information has been made easier, all thanks to digital technology. What is enterprise content management? It is the systematic collection and organization of meaningful information that is collected and stored so that it is accessible to the right audience.

How ECM works

The enterprise content management system software works in different steps which include;

  • Digitally capturing data
    As aforementioned, enterprise content management has eliminated paperwork in businesses by ensuring that any information received is captured in digital platforms. Information in businesses can be found in invoices, resumes, reports, contracts, correspondence, and so much more. Some of the ways through which data is captured using the ECM software includes filling digital forms, automatic filing of documents, and managing the PDF’s, emails, word documents and videos.
  • Managing the content
    The next step is managing the information that was captured digitally in locations that they can easily be retrieved. The data can be managed through web content management, transactional content management, collaborative content management. Web content management allows specific persons to make any modifications on the websites by following strict guidelines. Transactional content management, on the other hand, ensures that data is always available to the right audience and deletes content that is not needed. Lastly, collaborative content management allows a number of people to access the documents and make modifications where need be.
  • Storing of the digital information
    After the information is managed, it is then stored in the computer. The information can be stored in files, folders, and drives which makes it easily accessible to the right parties.
  • Archiving the information
    Some of the information that business acquire is very important even in the long term. And that is why the information has to be archived for future reference. It ensures that critical business information is not misplaced and can be easily retrieved when need be.
  • Delivering the information
    This is the last step which ensures that all the right information in the correct format is delivered to the right audience be it the management, employees or even the customers.

Why do businesses need ECM software?

  • Reduces paperwork and saves time
    This is a no brainer; ECM has helped to reduce paperwork in the organization. Information can now be stored digitally and retrieved easily. So much so, this has also helped to save time that would have otherwise been used to look for documents in manual files. ECM streamlines the whole information lifecycle as it organizes and manages all the information in a systematic manner.
  • Increased productivity
    The fact that using the ECM software in businesses helps a great deal in saving time and sharing of information means that productivity levels also increase. You can make good use of the time that you would otherwise use to look for information in the manual files to focus on other key elements in business.
  • Reduced operational costs and risks
    Using digital forms and other ways to capture, manage and store data is way cheaper compared to using paper. ECM also eliminates the risks of losing crucial business information.
  • Improved customer service
    Customer service can make or break your business. ECM has greatly improved customer service in that any information that customers need can be made to them easily without having to make them wait for long.

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For those who are planning their next business trip, read on for our list of the world’s best cities for bleisure travelers. As you continue to travel, we continue to listen: Here are the best hotels for business travelers to stay in Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bangkok

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4 Tips That Will Help You Become A Better Business Analyst

Whenever someone is faced with a new challenge or is embarking on a new journey, nervousness and anxiety come along with it. If you have recently started to work as a business analyst and has moved from any previous profession, it may feel very challenging at first. But as a business analyst it is important that you stay confident and ensure your clients that you are up for the task. Here in this article, I will share a few tips that will help you become a better business analyst.

Show Your Resourcefulness

The first step you need to take in this journey is to show how resourceful you. When you have been assigned a task, do it with passion and make every detail of it look perfect. It should be done so well that not only your team will take notice of it, but your clients will appreciate it as well. Now, the task is not as easy as it seems, you will have to give put extra effort, but it will be worth it. Being resourceful also means that you should be familiar with all the tools a business analyst uses. You should also be able to use them properly to achieve maximum efficiency.

Consider Enrolling in Online Courses That Will Help You Understand the Business

When you are working as a business analyst you will not be able to get a chance to go back to college and expand your knowledge. But you can opt for the perfect alternative. You can still stay up to date with the latest techniques and tools by getting enrolled in an online degree program. As a business analyst, you can find a lot of degree options out there to enroll in. You can consider MS business analytics online degree that is being offered by Suffolk University. The admissions are currently open there, so hurry up!

Learn From the Best in Your Team

You are not going to learn everything by reading about it or working on it on your own. Sometimes you need help from other experienced professionals who can guide you and show you how to be efficient. Observe and find out who is the most skilled and experienced one in your team and stay closer to them. You will be able to learn a lot from them just by watching them. Also, do not be hesitant and try to ask questions whenever you feel curious. Learning from an experienced professional is the best form of learning in any field.

Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

If you want to become a good business analyst, there is no way you are getting there without improving your interpersonal skills. You should be able to communicate with anyone, at any time effectively. The better communicator you will become, the more you will be able to convince your clients. You could be the best and most skillful analyst in the world, but if you are not able to explain the problem effectively to the stakeholders and clients, it would not matter. So, do not be hesitant and always take part in conversations and give your input as well.

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CEO Spotlight: Interview with Robert Morton, Toronto Business Leader

With a commitment to client care paired with a strong background in the financial services industry, Robert Morton founded RLM Consulting, a strategy and operations consulting firm based in Toronto, to assist organizations with their business goals.  During his 21 years at State Street Bank, he mentored, trained and managed a staff of 60 professionals.

He served in a range of senior levels at State Street Bank, eventually becoming the bank’s Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at State Street Canada.  Most recently, Robert Morton spent 3 years with Home Capital Group Inc. and Home Trust, where he served as the firm’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Robert Morton says he sees RLM Consulting as an opportunity to provide over 20-plus years of knowledge in support of businesses’ biggest challenges, like performance improvement, transformation and cost reduction, among other areas.

Q: Tell us about some of the biggest challenges businesses face today and how you can help them overcome those challenges?

Robert Morton: In today’s economic climate, business leaders face a range of obstacles that might come their way.  From shifting market trends and consumer expectations to technology advances and recruitment issues, it is nearly impossible for leaders to become an expert in every area of business.  To ensure they create a successful, profitable and long-lasting brand, we provide hands-on finance consulting services in support of challenges such as performance improvement, transformation, cost reduction, change management and governance.

Q: In the business world, how could a consultant–an outsider–possibly know what’s best for a company that a founder may not realize?

Robert Morton:  In my experience, there are many instances where it makes sense to hire an outside consultant–to the point where it could save a business from shutting its doors.  Like in most of life’s cases, having an outsider’s perspective can shed new light and provide solutions to problems that executives at the company may not see themselves.  We can become so entrenched in our processes that it becomes impossible to see how things could be done differently. Many times, a business needs a consultant to identify what is preventing them from overcoming obstacles.

Q: From an organizational perspective, change management ensures that new processes are adopted by the people who are affected.  What do change management programs require to be successful?

Robert Morton:  To effectively implement change there needs to be several key factors in place.  First, there needs to be a clear case for change and that plan needs to be communicated to the staff – everyone from the CEO on down.  Not everyone will be on board. Instead of relating the facts, it’s important to take time to listen to your people and empathize with the individuals who dislike the new way of operating.   Once the changes are in place, there needs to be a system of rewards and consequences. For example, individuals who meet their objectives need to be rewarded appropriately and those who do not need to face consequences.  It is also important to remember that it takes a great deal of time to change attitudes and behaviors, and so the process of change management will not happen overnight.

Q: In your opinion, why is it important to continuously broaden our leadership thinking and what are some of the ways to do so?

Robert Morton: I think anyone who is in a leadership position should make refining their skills a personal goal.  If you want to become a better leader, you must be committed to continuously developing your attributes. Traditionally, this can include taking accredited education programs such as online or classroom training.  It can also mean taking on a mentorship role, networking with other professionals outside of your realm or practicing mental and physical self-care. Management and leadership is a profession and should be cultivated just as you would with your career.

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Corporate Structure and Financial Performance: How Are They Linked?

Corporate structure has been defined as a pattern by which organizations can divide their activities and tasks as well as control them to achieve higher degrees of coordination. Corporate structure, therefore, refers to the bureaucratic division of labor accompanied by control and coordination between different tasks in order to develop communication within organizations.

Corporate structure can be reshaped by executives when they develop knowledge sharing and inspire employees to create new ideas for a better environment among business-units and departments. Informal structure can facilitate new idea generation to build a more innovative climate within organizations. Executives can implement organizational changes that develop better collaboration among subordinates and managers.

Centralized versus decentralized decision making is also a topic that executives must deal with. More emphasis on formalized and mechanistic structures can negatively impact the executive’s ability to exert such changes. On the contrary, a more decentralized and flexible structure may improve departmental and managerial interactions. The mechanical or centralization at the commanding level of leadership impairs the opportunity to develop relationships among managers, business units, and departments.

Executives can reshape corporate structure to be more effective when the command center of organizations can disseminate information in a decentralized and organic way as opposed to the mechanical and centralized command center.

Decentralized structures shift the power of decision-making to the lower levels and subsequently inspire organizational members to create new ideas and even implement them while centralized structures may negatively impact interdepartmental communications and inhibit knowledge exchange. Recent research in this area affirms that the there is a negative impact of centralization on various knowledge management processes such as knowledge acquiring, creating, and sharing among both managers and departmental units.

On the contrary, a more decentralized and flexible structure may enable executives in improving departmental and managerial interactions that can lead to identify best opportunities for investment that potentially leads to improve knowledge utilization process for companies. Ergo, executives can positively contribute to organizational knowledge management through building more decentralized structures within organizations.

Furthermore, knowledge management is a significant indicator of improving financial performance. Knowledge management can, in fact, improve financial performance through increasing customer satisfaction, learning opportunities and innovation. Therefore, if corporate structure is not completely in favor of supporting knowledge management, executives cannot effectively manage organizational knowledge to improve financial performance and organizations may become obsolete or taken over.

It is also evident that networking with external business partners, as a function of knowledge management, increases financial performance, thereby providing directions for executives to develop a more effective vision incorporating various concerns and values of external business partners. Networking with other companies also contributes to the effectiveness of learning, which in turn enables executives by empowering human resource and creating new knowledge and solutions. Accordingly, flexible structures can indirectly affect financial performance through propelling knowledge management activities that can play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of products and services.

In conclusion, financial performance can be, therefore, enhanced when executives reshape corporate structure to develop a more flexible corporate structure that provides open access to knowledge and information. I simply extended the current literature by showing how executives can contribute to organizational outcomes by reshaping corporate structure to propel knowledge management processes within companies.

Written by Mostafa Sayyadi.

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