Eugene Epps, a certified compensations professional, made the ultimate decision to embark on a new journey after 30 years of experience in the corporate human resources industry. Today he is the founder and managing partner of 11-year old EP2S Compensation Solutions, LLC, a minority-owned business and ConnXus+ supplier based in Houston, TX.
Hands down, HR rewards and benefits’ programs should not decrease a company’s bottom-line—instead, HR programs should, “provide a positive impact and return on the organization’s HR dollar, as well as encourage career development that benefits the company and its employees,” explains Epps.
Since its founding in 2004, EP2S Compensation Solutions, prides itself on developing employee pay, retirement and healthcare programs that produce maximum return-on-investment (ROI) for both the company and employees. The consulting firm is also known for developing and implementing sound reward programs that support a company’s strategic business and HR objectives.
For example, today’s employer-sponsored health insurance plans (fully insured or self-insured) annually cost a company and its employees thousands or millions of dollars, while producing a negative impact and return on the organization’s healthcare dollar, cash-flow, operations and bottom-line. EP2S Compensation Solutions has recently launched a new and innovative healthcare pay program called EP2S Healthcare Benefit Rewards. This new “Program” is designed to annually save a company and its employees thousands to millions of dollars while producing a positive impact and return on the organization’s healthcare dollar, cash-flow, operations and bottom-line.
To learn more about the new healthcare pay program, Epps has published the book EP2S Health Care Benefit Rewards Program that can be ordered on line by visiting www.ep2s.net.
When asked about the firm’s major milestones in its 11-years of operation, Epps responded, “I am most proud of the development and implementation of our revolutionary job evaluation system—EP2S Broadbanding. The system was developed on behalf of a client’s need to simplify and streamline its organization as well as the job writing and evaluation process, all while reducing labor costs.” Epps has a book published on the EP2S Broadbanding job evaluation system.
Additionally, the firm developed and implemented an innovative pay program for Kinder Morgan’s non-exempt field operations employees. This new program simplified their client, Kinder Morgan’s, ability to train, classify and offer reward programs for their non-exempt field employees. Also among EP2S Compensation Solutions clients are Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Dow Corning–Settlement Facility Trust and Spectra Energy.
Epps, a member of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), has been a ConnXus+ supplier for one year and on Wednesday, November 18.
Karen Meyers Holzer, President of The Deciding Factor, invited ConnXus into their Mason office to learn the logic behind the “Marketing That Makes up Minds.” The 13- year old women-owned integrated marketing firm, based in Mason, Ohio, is a ConnXus+ and Marketplace member. The company has been a friend and supporter of ConnXus since its launch in 2010.
Breaking down the strategy-based marketing differentiator of The Deciding Factor, Holzer explains, “What makes us different from other firms is that we always start with a strategy. First we ask clients: What are you trying to achieve? What marketing have you done in the past? What are your business goals, and how are you going to track it? From this initial assessment, we begin to fabricate our strategic marketing efforts in line with those goals.”
In other words, it’s not just creating a brochure and hoping it gains traction. It’s asking who the audience is, where the strategy will be utilized and the ROI the clients will reap. It’s about being a smart marketer. Marketing efforts should align with business goals, whether you are a small, mid-sized or large company.
The integrated marketing firm works in B2B and B2C website development, digital content management, social media and e-marketing as well as traditional marketing, such as billboard advertising, and increasingly more public relations.
Meredith Raffel, Executive Director of The Arts Alliance in Mason remarks on the transformation her company gained from The Deciding Factor marketing, “The slippery slope of pro-bono is a dance. It’s a marriage of giving and receiving. But what The Deciding Factor gave to The Arts Alliance was a voice. Never strong armed into any idea, The Deciding Factor walked us through this process of growth and change. They gave us the chance to realize ‘what speaks to us’ about the future of our organization.”
Creating that emotional connection with a brand is the key to success. Humans make decisions intellectually and emotionally. Whether you are buying a coffee cup or a new car, you do your research and emotionally invest.
Holzer enlightens us further, stating, “60% of your buying decision is made online before you even call to ask questions or go into the store,” explaining why it is absolutely crucial to have an emotional hook that the competing product/service lacks. Whether you recognize it or not, Product A and Product B are probably very similar in quality and price, so there has to be something else that makes up their mind. And that’s the brand. As humans we experience such things on multiple levels.
Explaining the connection between a brand and emotion, Holzer says, “What I love is watching a company go from being a marketing skeptic and what we can show them is that marketing doesn’t have to be scary, it is a tool for them. We can show them through analytics and metrics that their customers are engaging with their brand.”
As a ConnXus Marketplace partner, The Deciding Factor offers exclusive marketing pricing for ConnXus+ members. The firm is currently working with a ConnXus+ member to revamp their logistics marketing efforts. As a startup, the young company is literally “on the road” expanding its network and services. The Deciding Factor is building up its marketing efforts to strengthen its brand, logo development and webpage design.
The firm has taken full advantage of their ConnXus+ membership, having responded to several RFQ and RFP opportunities and presenting their expertise in the ConnXus Webinar Series, not once but two times. After the first webinar presentation, 15 participants reached out to The Deciding Factor requesting more information about their marketing strategies and services.
In addition to digital marketing and website development, the integrated marketing firm specializes in crisis communication and implementation plans. As the saying goes, smart public relations means planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Crisis communication plans, Holzer explains, “prepare you for an incident that is handled carefully and hopefully diffuses before turning into a drawn-out crisis. In today’s social media arena, crises blow up exponentially faster than they would have even five years ago.”
Especially for manufacturing companies, the idea that something hazardous will happen due to a malfunction of heavy equipment or welding torch accident, means a crisis communication plan is vital for the company’s survival.
Holzer notes that consistent internal communication absolutely must be coherent before being publicly disseminated, whether it’s a response to a crisis or the launch of a new product.
Sensitive to the fact that startup companies are still trying to pave their own road, the firm realizes that marketing efforts are still in the emerging phase, and often times gets put on the back burner. Smaller suppliers also have a rational fear of contracting with big companies and ConnXus bridges that gap for people. The Deciding Factor helps startups and small companies phase in different aspects of marketing materials.
This month, the President of Cincinnati-based WBE-certified Evolution creative solutions’ spoke with ConnXus on behalf of their 21-year-old commercial printing supplier services. Since its launch in 1994, Evolution has been recognized for their award-winning print services for clients such as AAA, Anthem, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and University of Louisville. Evolution has been a ConnXus+ member since 2010.
Holding customer branding to the highest of standards, Evolution is notably the only commercial printer in Ohio and Kentucky with an all-encompassing seven-color digital press that can print on 3000+ substrates including plastics, wood and thick stock.
Cathy Lindemann, President of Evolution creative solutions, proudly stands behind her creative team as she tells her story about becoming a majority owner of the company. She says, “In 2004, I was teaching high school chemistry and working part-time in various departments at Evolution (KPB at the time), and not too long after I joined the team, the CEO asked me to start lending a hand in running the company.” Honored by this offer, Lindemann accepted and began to make positive innovations for the company. “I knew I wanted the company to offer more than just printing services. I took a risk, changed the name to Evolution creative solutions to more accurately reflect the vast majority of creative services we offer, and it paid off.”
Since then, the firm has expanded their in-house printing services to include promotional products such as apparel, embroidery and direct-to-garment printing, as well as other creative solutions like graphic design and brand curation. Lindemann tells her clients, “If your logo is on it—we can produce it!”
The company’s new state-of-the-art even-color digital press has full capabilities to print vast breadth of colors to ensure that each customer’s brand is consistent with their style guide. Additionally, the company prints on a wide format machine that offers white and silver printing. Lindemann elaborates, “The blend of the two machines allows our creative team to confidently match products across all customer’s desired marketing pieces.”
Evolution’s work has been recognized by the following prestigious industry awards:
- 2013, 2014 and 2015 Printing Industry of America Printing Awards
- 2013 and 2014 Graphic Design of American Design Awards
- 2014 WBE Supplier of the Year by Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council
For more information on Evolution’s creative solutions, please visit http://www.evo-creative.com
Are you at ConnXus+ member? Interested in featuring your company in the Supplier Spotlight blog? Contact ConnXus Marketing Coordinator, Shannon Frohme at email@example.com
Founded in 2008, GFG Asset Management is a ConnXus+ member of two years. The company is based in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of the reviving city of Detroit. With over 20 years of experience in the investment industry, including 12 years as a Merrill Lynch executive and six years as the founder of wealth management group, Garth Financial Group, Duane Garth brings a longstanding history of financial trust to GFG clients.
The asset management firm specializes in strategically selecting publicly traded small- and medium-sized companies for investor portfolios. These companies typically have a market cap of less than $20 billion in assets.
To ensure enterprise clients that their portfolios are being closely monitored, GFG holds the stocks until one or more of the following events occur, Garth tells ConnXus:
1. The price of the stock reaches the target price, set by the investor and GFG.
2. The price of the stock is overvalued versus what the industry indicates.
3. An extraordinary occurrence that causes the performance of the stock to drop.
Garth also has several recommendations for corporate entities or high net-worth individuals looking to work with an investment advisor. Most importantly, be sure to research the firm’s performance track record, as well the individual that will manage your portfolio. Look for a good fit between the firm’s management style and your own. For example, if you’re looking to invest internationally, find a firm that specializes and has a trusted track record in that specific cap space in order to maximize long-term capital growth.
On a similar note, Garth highly suggests, “Be sure to know the individual portfolio manager’s strength in order to have confidence in what added values they’ll bring to the table when managing your pension plans, bonds and/or real estate.”
Select for May’s Supplier Spotlight: The Deciding Factor
As Tim Scruta approaches his 2nd year anniversary with ConnXus, we’d like to shine the spotlight on our Product Services Manager as he settles into the new ConnXus Portland office. Before working with ConnXus, he was a student at Bowling Green State University where he achieved a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration degree with a specialization in Supply Chain Management.
Here’s what he had to say:
What are your main responsibilities as Product Services Manager?
Scruta: For anyone who has ever worked for a start-up, you’ll understand when you walk in the office door each morning, your duties can change significantly from day today. We joke that we, the team members, wear many hats. Whether this means performing account manager duties for the afternoon, changing the water cooler or performing sales calls in order to help support one another. Aside from my many “hats”, my main responsibilities are being the product expert and providing our customers the support they need in order for them to be successful. This includes demonstrating our products, answering any product-related questions, and providing analysis on their current supplier diversity initiatives. Additionally, I am heavily involved throughout the sales and contraction process, providing the education and material our client needs.
How have your responsibilities progressed since you first started with ConnXus?
Scruta: Initially, I was hired in July 2013 to split my time between ConnXus and Rod Robinson’s other company Accel Advisors. On the ConnXus side, I was involved with the day to day customer service tasks and researching vendors as a part of the manual data validation process. For Accel Advisors, I was working as a sourcing analysis and consultant for a prominent real estate management client. On January 1st, 2014, I transitioned into a project management role with ConnXus where I was responsible for managing the scrub process from start to finish. Additionally, I was responsible for revolutionizing the scrub product from a basic flat spreadsheet to a dynamic interactive scrub Xperience for our clients. With this transition, I helped support and manage the supplier diversity program for a client within the medical industry. My main responsibilities included training the prime suppliers on how to report their tier II spend and developing strategies on how to increase our client’s supplier diversity spend. Most recently, I relocated to Portland, Oregon where I transitioned into my current role today. I am continuing my previous responsibilities along with creating brand awareness and selling the ConnXus Xperience.
What should existing and potential West Coast clients anticipate the most from ConnXus’ Portland expansion?
Scruta: Our existing and potential West Coast clients can anticipate industry-leading supplier diversity solutions and experience the customer-centric philosophy we pride ourselves on. Additionally, small and minority West Coast suppliers can anticipate great opportunities to work with our existing clients on the east coast, along with new clients in their backyard. Creating this bi-coastal connection within the supplier diversity space will be an exhilarating Xperience both our clients and suppliers will not want to miss.
Author: ConnXus Founder and CEO Rod Robinson
When we launched ConnXus 5 years ago this month, we had no products, no customers, no supplier database to speak of, and two employees, including yours truly.
Today, we have more than a dozen employees, and our growing list of enterprise customers include some of the most recognized corporate brands on the planet. ConnXus provides a suite of technology-enabled solutions that help them better manage their supplier relationships as well as collect & manage data, track, monitor and report diversity spend activity at multiple levels of the supply chain.
The growth of our enterprise SaaS (software-as-a-service) business model has led to us building a database of nearly 2 million of the approximately 15 million diverse businesses in the United States.
But, how useful is it to have information on 2 million diverse suppliers when most major corporations only have 5,000 – 10,000 total active suppliers at any time?
This is when a new a way thinking can create change. Through our work, we’ve learned more about the many great diverse suppliers that serve our enterprise customers. Those suppliers are capable of real growth by serving even more of our customers.
Growing a Diverse Supplier Base: Pick a Category
One of our enterprise customers recently launched an initiative to increase diversity spend across numerous professional services categories including Information Technology (IT), a category worth tens of millions in annual spend. They realized that of the nearly 100 IT firms they were doing business with, only 5 were diverse.
With a database of nearly 2 million diverse suppliers across hundreds of spend categories, our IT category consists of 12 subcategories, including staff augmentation, consulting, software, information management and data services.
A quick search of the ConnXus database revealed a total 1,035 diverse IT providers nationally. After applying search filters based on our customer’s requirements, we ultimately identified nearly 300 firms qualified to do business with this specific customer, as well as for several others with similar requirements.
Our customer is now positioned to more competitively bid out IT projects to a broader set suppliers. That will ultimately lead to increased diversity spend, higher quality and lower cost.
It was truly gratifying to later learn that our enterprise customer has already started to engage with a handful of these firms regarding future opportunities. We look forward to replicating this across other high value categories. As I reflect back to the beginning of ConnXus, such value creating “ConnXions” was always the ultimate goal.
Publishing Note: This is part one of an 8-part small business financing blog series in partnership with The Business Backer.This blog series will clear the financial fog, providing you with the tools necessary to make the best financing decision for your diverse or woman-owned small business.
Each blog will address a key question you should ask potential funders before accepting a deal. Making an informed financing decision can help you avoid the traps and find the right partner for your business.
Question 1: What kind of lender are you?
Like many businesses in the world, there are lenders who work hard to deliver good solutions for their clients’ best interests, but there are others who don’t. Let’s first define these groups:
A broker is a third party sales office whose primary job is to bring together lenders and borrowers. Brokers ﬁnd business owners in need of funding, collect their information and shop the deal to multiple funders. Seems like a good idea in theory; the business owner saves time by hiring someone else to do their research and comes out with the best deal in the market. The problem is finding a trustworthy broker who will do just that. While there are reputable brokers out there who put the business owner’s interest first, some will push deals that are much larger than the business owner originally wanted or can afford, simply to collect a larger commission. Others will conveniently leave out that they are, in fact, brokers and not direct lenders. Added commissions charged to the business owner can be as much as 20% and these are often hidden in blended invoices.
DIRECT FUNDING COMPANIES
Direct funding companies remove the middleman and work with the business owners directly for their funding needs. Direct funding companies typically offer a specific financing product built for businesses within their ideal credit box. Credit models, approved industries, deal amounts, terms and fees vary from funder to funder, which can make the search for the right product very time consuming. Compared to the lengthy paperwork and approval process required by traditional lenders, direct funding companies can typically provide approvals and funding within a matter of days with little to no paperwork.
NEW – FINANCING FACILITATOR
Facilitators are direct funding companies with the capabilities to not only provide direct funding themselves, but can also facilitate funding from partner funding companies, credit unions, banks and SBA lenders. Unlike brokers, facilitators not only have a network of partners representing the full spectrum of lending options available for their small business customers, but they also are a direct lender themselves. Facilitators evaluate the credit profile and borrowing circumstances of the small business to determine the best options. For instance, your clients may be “bankable,” just not with the bank where they currently hold their business deposits. There could be banks in other areas of the country that will welcome these clients, even if their current bank does not. By managing these partner relationships and staying up-to-date on new options and policy changes, facilitators can offer a variety of options to business owners so they can make an educated decision on their financing.
Whether your clients choose to work with a broker, direct funding company or financing facilitator, understanding who they are working with and what to expect are the first steps to finding the right financing option. Understanding their lender’s process and asking these questions before any agreement is sent can save a lot of time, headaches and money.
Stay tuned for next month’s question – What fees are involved?
Author: CEO and Founder Rod Robinson
You’d be hard pressed to find a major corporation today that doesn’t have some form of supplier diversity initiative. And a key component of supplier diversity programs is the periodic reporting of progress against established goals and objectives. As more organizations move from compliance-driven to market-driven programs, they’re raising the bar in program investment, management, marketing and reporting of performance metrics.
These corporate trendsetters provide their investors, board members, government agencies and other stakeholders real value: a baseline from which to evaluate and benchmark supplier diversity program performance and impact.
In my nearly 20 years in supply chain & procurement as both a management consultant and former CPO, I have had the unique opportunity to witness an evolution in supplier diversity reporting among the best companies. This evolution has resulted in a shift from unsophisticated, manual processes that limited scale and data accuracy to more scalable, technology enabled processes that greatly improve data accuracy and reliability. Based on what I am seeing in the market, I strongly believe this trend will continue.
Here are four key trends driving increased sophistication in supplier diversity reporting:
1. Comprehensive quantitative disclosure requirements will become the norm for domestic publically traded companies.
In April 2014, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, on behalf of the New York City Pension Funds, wrote the Funds’ largest holdings, including Apple, Pfizer, Oracle and American Express, asking them to disclose performance figures on their supplier diversity programs. The announcement further stated that 90% of S&P 100 companies have supplier diversity programs, but less than half of that group discloses data on program performance (NYC Comptroller Calls For Greater Supplier Diversity at 20 of NYC Pension Funds’ Largest Holdings).
The letter requested that companies disclose – annually — qualitative and quantitative performance data that sheds light on program effectiveness. Specifically:
- To disclose their annual spend with diverse suppliers in both real terms and as a percentage of their total supplier spend, preferably by category;
- To establish and disclose quantitative performance goals for their supplier diversity program and annual progress toward achieving these goals; and
- To describe ways in which supplier diversity goals are reinforced throughout the organization, including for example, through (a) oversight by senior management and the board of directors and (b) specific compensation incentives for employees, managers and senior executives
My initial reaction to this news was, Wow! That’s strong. But considering the significant diverse representation of pension fund participants, these requests are quite reasonable. Connecticut followed a similar path, but went a step further by recently filing a shareholder resolution demanding that Monster Beverage appoint a female or minority board member.
This isn’t an anomaly. The diversity disclosure demands of large public investors, investment advisors and custodians will continue to increase. Meanwhile, corporate supplier diversity program metrics will be evaluated and benchmarked just like any other key performance indicator. As it should be.
2. Increased focus on supplier diversity spend data integrity.
Increased disclosure requirements come with increased data scrutiny. The Dodd-Frank Act requires six federal regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, to assess the diversity practices of regulated entities, including publically traded companies. As such, the accuracy and reliability of supplier diversity status and spend data will be critical.
3. Diverse supplier relationship management as a model for broader supplier relationship & risk management.
Many best practices supplier diversity companies require diverse suppliers to register on a dedicated portal that is the entry point into a database. This portal captures relevant supplier qualification data including valid diversity certification documents. While this provides companies with great visibility into their diverse supplier base, non-diverse suppliers are typically not required to register on a portal that provides such transparency.
There is no better example of why this level of transparency will be required for all suppliers in the future than the financial services industry. According to an MQ article, the increase in regulatory scrutiny stemming from the global financial crisis has now reached beyond banks, to the companies that supply them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulators are holding financial institutions responsible for the actions of their suppliers. In 2012, several big name banks paid a total of more than $500 million to settle complaints resulting from the actions of third-party suppliers (“Managing when vendor and supplier risk becomes your own,” July 2013).
4. Heightened focus on Tier2 spend tracking & reporting.
Many best practices companies leverage technology applications to collect, track and analyze the relevant diversity spend of several of their prime suppliers. This benefits the company in a couple of key ways. First, the company gets credit for the direct diversity spend associated with its contract with the prime and an allocation of indirect spend. Second, the company gains visibility to new diverse suppliers that may become primes in the future.
In light of expected increased regulatory scrutiny and more focus around supplier risk management, some companies are starting to use their Tier 2 program as a basis for increasing broader supply chain transparency beyond supplier diversity. Some are even looking to track down to the Tier 3 level and beyond.
Why not? The more information that a company can have about its key suppliers (and their suppliers) the better. Technology removes the limitations that may have existed in years past.
This is part two of an 8-part small business financing blog series in partnership with The Business Backer. This blog series will clear the financial fog, providing you with the tools necessary to make the best financing decision for your diverse or woman-owned small business.
Let’s dive into the next question:
Question 2: What fees are involved?
Hidden fees are commonplace in the consumer world, tacked on to a wide variety of purchases including airline tickets, cell phone plans, and medical treatments. Another frequent example is cable and internet service; we’ve all heard something about the Comcast debacle. It’s no surprise these fees are also common in the unregulated small business lending space. The truth is that some fees are necessary, such as those that intend to cover risk or services needed to process the loan. Other fees are completely frivolous and do not supplement anything except the broker’s or lender’s pockets.
HOW BAD IS IT?
With new lenders and brokers opening their doors every day and more capital available in the market for small businesses than ever before, the fight for the lowest rate is a cut-throat battle. The desperation to gain market share while continuing to make a profit has led some lenders and brokers to add unnecessary “fees,” which allows them to post a lower rate than the competition to earn business despite charging more. Fees may be disclosed and defined or they could be included within a blended, lump sum cost in the agreement, which is extremely confusing to the client.
Read More Here.