July 2016 eNewsletter

The Time for Women Leaders Has Come

Larry Grypp

It’s one of the oldest family businesses in the world. More than 600 years old. Led by only men all that time. But times have changed.

When 26th-generation owner Marchese Antinori came to realize that after three children — all girls — he was unlikely to have a son to take over the family’s storied winemaking business, he had a decision to make. Should he buck the deeply ingrained culture and tradition to raise his girls to run one of the most heralded Tuscan wineries in the world? Or should he sell the business or bring in an outside industry executive?

Antinori bucked tradition, and his rationale was brilliant. Wine — its production, its marketing, its place in culture and cuisine — is as much emotional as it is rational. Empowered by their father’s daring decision making, the three Antinori sisters have brought a new mindset and perspective to the business that is paying off attractively as it expands its reach to new markets around the world.

Women bring unique leadership talents and qualities.  Now is the time to reject the notion of institutional bias in whether women are disadvantaged or passed over in handing a business down to the next generation.  And there is more work than we realize if we truly want to create as much of an opportunity for the women in the family as the men. Some things to consider:

  1. Do you “talk business” with your daughters as much as with your sons? These kitchen table chats do a lot to shorten the learning curve and give a young person early insights into what it takes.
  2. Have you encouraged your daughters to consider a leading role in the business? We all understand the importance of having that parental nudge or blessing, and even more so when a daughter might need some signal that you might want her in that role, rather than her keeping those ambitions to herself or raising them too late. 
  3. Are you helping your daughter build the same kind of business support network that might come more easily to one of your sons?

Standing up for and standing behind our daughters as future owners and leaders of a family business starts with being fair, but must be followed with intention and action. That time has arrived.

What Should You Do If You Received a Marketplace Notice From HHS

Lyndsey R. Barnett, Graydon Head

We have received multiple calls from panicked clients in the past few weeks due to the clients receiving Health Insurance Marketplace Notices from the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”). If you received one of these notices, please don’t panic quite yet.   It does not necessarily mean that your company is subject to a shared responsibility penalty under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  You received this notice because you have an employee (or at least someone listed you as their employer) who has received financial assistance with their health plan coverage purchased on a government exchange. 

An employer shared responsibility penalty is assessed on a large employer (defined as having 50 or more full-time equivalent employees) who does not offer minimum value, affordable health plan coverage to a full-time employee and that employee goes to the exchange and qualifies for financial assistance. If you are a small employer, you are not subject to the shared responsibility penalties and can ignore the notice.  If you are a large employer who offered minimum value, affordable coverage to the employee(s) listed on the notice or if the employee is enrolled in your health plan (regardless of whether it is minimum value or affordable), you should not be subject to a shared responsibility penalty. Further, if these employee(s) were not offered coverage due to not being full-time, the employee is entitled to financial assistance and no penalty will be issued as a result of this employee qualifying for financial assistance.

So why are you getting this notice now if you may not be subject to a penalty? HHS is not the governmental agency responsible for issuing shared responsibility penalties under the ACA. The penalties are issued by the IRS. However, HHS informs the IRS which individuals are receiving financial assistance on the exchanges. This notice is your opportunity to appeal to HHS that the individual(s) on the notice are not actually eligible for financial assistance. If your appeal is successful, HHS will revoke the individual’s financial assistance and won’t inform the IRS that these individuals may trigger a penalty on their employers. While this will not be your last chance to appeal if a penalty is assessed, appealing the determination now will likely save you time and headaches in the future. For this reason, we recommend that if you receive one of these notices that you take it seriously, do a little homework to determine if this individual was actually offered coverage, and appeal if they were. The notice itself has clear instructions on how to appeal. Also, if you are a large employer and discover that the employee was not offered coverage, but should have been due to their full-time status, now is an opportunity to offer them coverage and avoid continuing to accrue the shared responsibility penalties for the rest of the year.

What Innovation Means to Small and Family Owned Business

Ken Maisch, TechSolve

Lately, innovation has become a buzz word.  While most of us associate it with new technology breakthroughs such as self-driving cars, what happens to businesses with more modest and practical services? Can a small, family owned business find ways to innovate without a billion dollar research and design budget?  

The truth is that small businesses, and particularly family owned businesses, are the core of America’s economy. Subsequently it could be argued that innovation is more important among small and family owned businesses than any other market.

Innovation is a vital function for small business to avoid being commoditized or defeated by larger chain organizations. Business leaders of small firms must:

  1. Find new ways to better their customer service model
  2. Revise the way they manage their supply chain, and
  3. Do whatever they can to eliminate unnecessary costs in order to stay competitive.

Speed and Relationships

For small and family owned businesses, innovation starts by taking a look at the basic structure of your business. What is working now?  Will it work in the future?  What needs to be changed?  

A previous generation may have started the business many years ago on a 1935 business model, but the market has changed drastically.   Fifty years ago the closest thing to LinkedIn was the local barber shop.  Now the methods for reaching customers have radically changed.  The business universe has become vast due to the internet and social media.  While this presents a challenge, it also presents an opportunity to find new and innovative ways to reach your customer base.  The 21st century consumer operates at lightning speed and expects immediate gratification.  Innovation could mean finding a way to respond to and correct customer problems faster.  This may be a key factor in establishing those loyal customers who make family businesses so successful.

For decades, business loyalty has been about bricks and mortar.   Everyone had their favorite restaurant or grocery store that they frequented for comfort and familiarity.  This type of loyalty has dramatically dissipated. Family owned grocery stores have to come up with significant value added reasons why consumers should choose them, because it is impossible to be competitive to the prices of the big chains.  In this case maybe innovation is unmatched customer service or the convenient online shopping or rewards programs.  Innovation and differentiation can be the difference between success and failure.


Taking over a family business after a parent’s retirement can be tricky. Many of the business’s core customers and contacts may be aging as well, and the people replacing them may not have the same kind of sentimental attachment to the company or service that their predecessors did. How can a traditional business change or innovate to ensure continued growth? As the younger generation transitions into leadership roles, they must find a way to add value to a whole new market of consumers.  The widget that Dad has sold successfully for years is tried and true, so why not find a new market to sell it to?  Innovation can be as simple as making what you already do relevant to a new set of customers.


There is a fine line between becoming an expert in an industry and becoming commoditized.  While it’s important to have expertise, it can be easy to get cornered into a tightly niche market. Market and customer diversification is innovation that can mean growth for a small business.  Target and “own” a specific customer segment. Look inward and “own” a distinguishing business attribute – “own” the highest quality, or the most convenient or the fastest turnaround etc… choose a relevant differentiator and “own” it.

It is clear that businesses can’t afford NOT to innovate.  The time to make fundamental changes from top to bottom is now.

Culture Shaping: Hiring Employees Who Can Shift Organizational Culture

Michele Plessinger, Gilman Partners

Hiring individuals who align with your company’s core values, ethics, and culture can be critical to their success as well as that of your organization. However, successful and thriving companies continue to evolve their culture in order to maintain their competitive advantage. Cultivating organizational culture, or culture shaping as it’s often known, continues to be a hot topic within management conversations. Culture shaping is done with purpose and starts at the top.

Successful CEOs and executive leaders shape their culture instead of allowing their culture to shape the company. These leaders have a clear and compelling purpose for themselves and their organizations. I keep reading about the Leadership Shadow – the idea that effective leaders essentially cast their shadow on the organization. That shadow should reflect the clearly defined values and behaviors that the leader and other executives model. Like any other business strategy, the culture-shaping process needs to be championed and supported by resources and an execution plan. The shaping process is a journey, not an event, but what happens to those employees who fit and were successful within Culture A, but now are shifting to Culture B?

Again, much of the culture shift happens over time. So as the newly shaped culture is being defined and communicated, new employees are joining the organization who fit – and often will help drive – that culture shift. Are current employees left behind? If the culture shaping is done right, most employees will adapt and be able to evaluate their existing habits, behaviors, and values and align with the new culture. But, there will be some people who can’t or won’t make that shift.

In the end, hiring employees who fit into a company’s existing culture is fine. But for the sake of growth and future success, it’s imperative for hiring managers to always be on the lookout for employees who also can bring necessary change.

Michele focuses on the firm’s CFO, accounting, and finance searches. She has over fifteen years of experience in recruiting and human resources, spanning industries such as manufacturing, health care, professional services and technology.  A former Deloitte employee, she has extensive expertise in recruiting for the consulting, finance and accounting industries.

Michele is also the firm’s certified expert on the BG Behavioral Assessment tool which is administered as part of the candidate selection process.

Michele has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and joined the firm in 2004.