Why was Utah just named #1 Best Economic Outlook for 2015? Aug 17, 2015, 3:07 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Utah recently earned the top spot for states with the best economic outlook, according to the new edition of Rich States, Poor States released by the American Legislative Exchange Council.



This economic outlook is meant to be a forward-looking measure and ALEC uses 15 areas they have determined to be the best determinants of economic success. The measure is meant to show how each state can expect to perform.

We love Utah over here at Bank of American Fork. As community bankers, we get to help local business owners to finance their dreams and grow. We find that our customers are hard-working, ambitious and intelligent.

What else do you think makes Utah’s economy and business owners successful?

Why Your Corporate Training Curriculum Must Include a Wellness Program Aug 10, 2015, 9:32 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder

My most recent article focused on the importance of competency training to assure operational effectiveness and efficiency—which, in turn, create positive customer outcomes and generate financial success. Competency, however, is only one leading indicator that drives operational success. There is a second, equally critical driver: the health and wellness of your people.

Clearly, sick or injured employees cannot deliver 100 percent of their competency. Even if they show up for work, they generally drag through the day, creating a fraction of the value they would give if they were well. And obviously, if they are absent from work, the problem is exacerbated.

Recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control shows how significant this is. For every 100 workers in U.S. corporations, 65 are overweight, 33 have high blood pressure, 27 have heart disease and 10 have diabetes. These conditions are not mutually exclusive; many employees have two or more of these conditions.

Over time these issues lead to long-term health crises, including premature death. In the short term they regularly zap the productivity of individual businesses and the economy through absenteeism. It is estimated that about 2.5 percent of the American workforce is not at work on any given workday due to unscheduled absences. Even more significant is what has become known as presenteeism, or attending work while sick. 

A 2004 Harvard Business Review article “Presenteeism: At Work—But Out of It” popularized the term. It referenced a study of worker productivity at Lockheed Martin Corporation, which found that employees who came to work with common ailments, such as back pain, arthritis, headaches, colds, flu and allergies, cost the company $34 million in one year. The article reported that presenteeism from these ailments can cut individual productivity by one-third or more. 

What is the best strategy for reducing the impact of both absenteeism and presenteeism? To discover that, we must examine the root causes of the ailments that contribute to these issues. Fortunately, the CDC has also documented some of the more significant causes. They include smoking, unhealthy nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, high stress and depression. Any strategy that significantly reduces absenteeism and presenteeism must address these causes. 

A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that wellness programs aimed at reducing health risks, such as weight control and stress, saved 48 cents for every $1 spent, taking into account the impact on both healthcare costs and absenteeism. Savings were even higher when programs were focused on high-risk employees with multiple risk factors and chronic disease. 

As important as the financial impacts is the profound effect on worker perceptions. Healthways, a well-being improvement company, has developed a Well-Being Assessment it tracks with the Gallup organization. The WBA assesses well-being at the individual level. The assessment was recently completed by about 20,000 employees in three large companies. Those who said it was difficult to exercise or eat healthy at work proved to be twice as likely to have high presenteeism, as did those who said their company had little interest in helping employees become physically active. Those who said their employers did not support them emotionally were over four times more likely have high presenteeism. 

The implications of these studies are clear: companies that want to be operationally effective and efficient must provide not only strong competency training and metrics but also health and wellness programs to assure employees are minimally impeded by physical or emotional ailments. Companies that actively engage in the health, nutrition and life balance of their employees reap substantial improvements in productivity and profitability through reductions of both absenteeism and presenteeism.

Small companies often find it difficult to implement an effective wellness program. The good news is that expert resources are available. Corporate Wellness by Vasa Fitness is one of the best here in Utah.  Its consultants assist in setting up programs for businesses, small and large. They establish baseline metrics, including weight, blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol levels, against which the progress of each employee is tracked. They also help in setting corporate incentives that are HIPAA compliant.

Corporate wellness is yet another important element of a strong open-book management system. Not only does it represent another link in the chain of desired business outcomes, it is also a strong leading indicator driving morale and workplace satisfaction.

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models.

Category: Business | No Comments

How Michelle helped protect herself from fraud Jul 23, 2015, 7:20 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Michelle, a Bank of American Fork employee, received a text alert about a zero dollar amount transaction on her debit card from retailer Amazon. Since Michelle only uses her credit card on Amazon, she knew right away it was a fraud attempt. She quickly had her card blocked to protect against any additional fraud attempts and filed a claim for the fraud against her.

Even though Michelle checks her transaction history regularly and feels she would have noticed the fraudulent transaction soon after it took place, she was glad she had signed up for smsGuardian™, a text alert service through Bank of American Fork that alerts customers to certain types of transactions. In her case, smsGuardian picked up on the zero dollar amount.

Here’s how you can help protect yourself with smsGuardian. When you sign up, you will receive text alerts that will alert you to certain transactions being conducted using your Bank of American Fork VISA® debit card via alerts to your mobile phone. Once enrolled, you will receive a text message each time your debit card is used for: international or out-of-state debit card transactions, purchase authorizations greater than $200, five or more transactions within a 24-hour period, card purchases where the card is not present and many other types of irregular transaction behavior. You can enroll by visiting www.bankaf.com >Products >Personal >Bank cards. On that page you will find a link to sign up for smsGuardian alerts.

After hearing Michelle’s story, I signed up for smsGuardian. It took me less than five minutes.

*Amazon, Kindle, Fire and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

smsGuardian is a trademark of JHA Payment Processing Solutions, Inc.

Creating a password that’s secure—and memorable Jul 06, 2015, 8:01 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Quincy Fowler

You have probably read recent news about security breaches. Passwords are stolen and online accounts compromised. Online safety is a top priority for everyone who uses the internet for financial transactions. A strong password can help protect you online. Many people are under the impression that a strong password will be difficult to remember. There are effective techniques for creating a strong and memorable password that is difficult to guess by those close to you and by strangers who would want to either figure out your password through social engineering or various decryption methods.

One of the hallmarks of a strong password is the inclusion of special characters to prevent a person from creating a program to guess using standard dictionary words or letters in a random order. The old advice of using a pet’s name or birthdate is simply outdated and dangerous in this age of advanced computing power. In order to create a strong password, you should consider making up a sentence that is easily remembered, but long and complex enough to make it challenging to guess. After you create the sentence, use the first letter of each word to write your password. Include numbers in the sentence and incorporate them with digits. Finally, use any punctuation that may appear in the sentence. In addition, use some special characters such as the ampersand (&) or the “at” symbol (@) in place of letters or entire words as appropriate.

For example, if I chose my sentence to be “The quick brown fox jumped over the 2 lazy dogs”, my password would wind up being Tqbfjot2ld. Most people would be unable to remember this password without context, but I, the rightful owner of the password, would have context to help me figure it out if I forget. Think of your password as the key to the vault door of your online bank account. You want it sufficiently complex that a skeleton key won’t allow unauthorized access.

Quincy Fowler is one of our customers who has years of IT experience—and even more years of creating, forgetting and learning to remember passwords!

How to prepare for a business loan Jul 02, 2015, 8:12 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Want to plant the seeds for a successful loan application? Check out this graphic for some ways you can prepare for a business loan.

Questions? Ready to apply? Call 800-815-BANK or contact a business banker.

Category: Business, Loans | No Comments

Some of the best types of online tools to save you time Jun 25, 2015, 8:20 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Especially in a small business, when employees and owners are often wearing many hats, it can be hard to keep up on everything that needs to happen while also improving efficiency.

Here’s one more idea you might want to consider: Are there financial tasks you can take online?

It can be difficult to relinquish control when you’re a small-business owner—small mistakes can have big costs and the success of your business means everything to you. However, you may want to consider the ways you could improve efficiency by unloading a few tasks, or even one, to an online system that is safe, secure and easy-to-use.

A recent study of more than 800 small business owners showed that 66 percent of respondents said they were likely to switch banks for a superior mobile offering for business accounts. While many small business owners struggle to know where to give up control, numbers show that you’ve probably at least thought about online and mobile solutions for your business.

Below are some ideas for types of tasks you may be able to take online that could have a big impact on your time. If your banker hasn’t offered these tools, make sure you ask, because you might be missing out on some time-savers.

Online business banking. One of the most basic things you can do is sign up for online banking and get help from your financial institution in creating an online account. Having real-time access to your transactions and other account services online can save you time and energy—instead of waiting for all your papers, receipts and documents to come in so you can reconcile, you can keep track using the internet from any location at any hour, day or night. Most likely, your financial institution will also allow you to do things like transfer funds, send ACH pay to employees and send money by wire transfer. Since more than half of small-business owners work more than 40 hours per week, you’re probably working when your bank is closed. With online banking you can get more done, when it works for you.

You might also consider finding out if you can grant customized account access to authorized staff, to make sure you have checks and balances within your organization.

Non-analyzed ACH and wires. Non-analyzed ACH or wires provides small-business customers who send minimal wires or process few ACHs the ability to send wires and initiate ACH items using online business banking. Once you learn how to use this service that is likely offered in your online banking, you can save time and money by paying your employees from home.

Bill pay service. Do you use a bill pay service for your personal bills? This simple service may be available for your business banking, allowing you to make payments via the internet to any checking account without writing a check. You can schedule payments you know you will have due, and have payees ready for other payments that are more variable. Then, when you need to track incoming invoices or bills, you can login and look at your payment history. If you have an online login for your business banking account, you can likely set it up directly from there.

Fraud protection for business. Some financial institutions offer fraud protections unique to business customers, since different types of or volume of transactions may require unique protections. Ask your financial institution if they offer a service that ensures that they checks they write are cashed by the correct parties or if they offer downloadable software that will help protect their computer from hackers that try to steal online banking information. These are a couple of the services I usually offer to business customers, and your financial institution might also.

Remote deposit. One way you might be able to save time is with remote deposit of checks. Look for a service at your financial institution that allows you to remotely capture checks with your mobile device. You may be charged a fee, so weigh the cost of the fee with the cost of your time and travel to deposit in a bank. You may find that the cost savings in your time is worth the cost of the associated fees. You might also consider a remote deposit product that allows you to scan checks with a small scanning device and make deposits from any location. It is likely that you can save some time and expense with some type of remote deposit service so make sure you talk to your banker about the options that could be available.

Accept online payments. One easy way to save time for small businesses, non-profits and other organizations is to accept online payments or donations directly from a customer’s bank account or with bank cards. This is ideal for organizations that do have access to or the need for an online shopping cart but want to provide the convenience of online payments or donations for their customers. This may benefit business owners and managers by improving your cash flow because of timely deposits. While you might not need a whole suite of online payment systems, even having a way to accept a smaller number of payments could save time.

While setting your business up to use online tools might take a small investment of time at first—to find out what your financial institution offers and learn to use the tools that will be valuable for you—you’ll likely save more time in the end. If you’re looking for a way to improve efficiencies in your organization, consider how you can take a few time-intensive financial tasks online.

Employee Competencies Drive Operational, Customer, and Financial Success Jun 18, 2015, 8:53 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder

Guest blogger Tyson is starting a series here about open book management. Make sure you check back for additional articles!

The reader of my last several articles may well wonder how far I intend to extend open-book management. To date, I have suggested that open-book management should encompass financial, customer and operating metrics. The operations, processes and/or systems of any business drive the outcomes experienced by customers—and customer satisfaction (or the lack thereof) drives financial outcomes.

The question I now raise is: What drives operational effectiveness and efficiency? Since, in almost all cases, people run the operations of business ventures, it is safe to say that people are responsible for the success or failure of any system or process. It is imperative, then, to thoroughly train employees to perform the operational tasks of the business in an exemplary way.

Operational competencies of an enterprise’s staff are leading indicators which create the lagging indicators embodied in operational metrics. Open-book management should, therefore, include “competency measures” that demonstrate each employee’s ability to perform the tasks that will effectively and efficiently deliver the outcomes desired by customers, who will, in turn, spend their cash for those outcomes.

Unfortunately, most small businesses (and many larger ones) do not adequately train their employees, much less test for and measure their competencies. The most common training method is what I call “training by osmosis.” This approach places new hires with experienced individuals, to whom they are to “pay attention.” After a day or two of being exposed to this expert, they are deemed ready for prime-time! Sadly, too often this newbie is set up for failure, having little or no sense of real competency (Editor’s note: For training help, see Ken Burnett’s series).

For manual tasks, I recommend a substantially modified version of osmosis training. It is referred to as See-Hear-Say-Do. The first step is simply to observe the experienced employee performing the task. Questions may or may not be asked by the newcomer at this point. Next, the trainer repeats performing the task, this time stating aloud each specific element that constitutes the full process. The new employee listens and observes with an intense focus on what is being done. The third step engages the learner by having him/her tell the experienced employee what to do, step by step. The trainer will proceed to perform the task only when the instructions given are correct. The trainer will prompt the learner where necessary to assure that understanding has been achieved. The final step requires the newcomer to actually perform the task, while repeating aloud each step.  

The process of seeing, hearing, saying and doing exposes the learner four times to the task and its inherent processes—and engages the senses of sight, hearing and speech, thus increasing recall and competency. This process should be repeated on at least a daily basis over a period of time until all measures of effective and efficient competency are assured.

For cognitive tasks, the principles that drive operational tasks must first be understood. Interactive teaching that engages the learner and allows them to paraphrase what they have learned is best here. Once this understanding is achieved, training should focus on the specific application of the principles taught in the context of the business. This can often be best accomplished using case studies of real experiences in the business. Having shared these applications of key business principles, learners should make a firm commitment to applying what they have learned, followed by a series of training experiences, which may be administered through case studies or real job situations. These experiences should then be followed by a careful review and critique by trainers regarding the new employee’s ability to perform the cognitive tasks desired. The process should be repeated until competency is assured.

In all cases, training should begin with the end in mind. All employees should understand—and be able to discuss in their own words—the linkage between financial, customer and operating outcomes and their own competencies. Owners, CEOs and other executives must recognize that the metrics which assure employee competencies are among the most important key performance indicators in any company. When these recognitions are firmly in place, the probability of business success increases considerably.

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models.

How to help protect your money and get the support you need as you age Jun 15, 2015, 8:51 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

It’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Something you can do? Share this graphic to spread the word about an effective way to help combat fraud against seniors.

If you’re thinking about fraud against seniors (up to $1 million a day here in Utah!) but aren’t sure how to protect yourself or your loved ones, start with some simple, but effective ways to put checks in place and combat different types of fraud. Seniors can maintain independence and still have a helper looking out for fraud with all or part of the account structure suggested in this infographic. Share the graphic online or, for a printed version, call 800-815-BANK.

Five important questions when you’re thinking about merchant services Jun 11, 2015, 8:11 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Richard Gray

Utah has a thriving business culture with business providing many different products and services. There’s no doubt, then, that a variety of businesses require a variety of merchant services. Merchant-services providers have solutions that are right for you, solutions that work for you and solutions that may hinder your business goals. Here are some questions that can help guide you in making sure your business is using merchant services to reach your goals.

Let’s start with a question that every good merchant-services provider should be asking their customers—you. Think about whether your provider knows this about your business.

What is the most important product or service your business offers? Your merchant-services provider should know the most important part of your business so they can offer the solutions that make the most sense for you. It’s easy to think of merchant services as just the ability to accept online payments or use a credit card machine, but there are so many different offerings in the merchant-services industry that there is often a nuanced solution that fits different businesses more perfectly than a generic solution. If your provider couldn’t answer this, consider re-thinking what they’re offering you.

Talk to your provider about the merchant services you’re using, the problems they are or aren’t solving for you and your goals. Make sure they understand your distribution channels and the value your business offers. This may aid your provider in finding the best solution instead of a solution.

The questions below may help you to discover where there is room for improvement in the merchant services you’re using.

What are other solutions to my merchant-services problem? Ask your provider this question. If you think you need a PIN pad so customers can use debit cards at your store, make sure you’re also taking the time to describe what service you offer your customers and what your customers expect from you. Perhaps there is a better, easier solution for you and your customers. Maybe a device that allows you to take payments on your phone is more effective for the types of sales you’re making. Your merchant-services provider should have answers and more than one solution for you, with different opportunity costs and benefits for you to weigh.

The next three questions you should ask yourself now and then make a note to revisit regularly after you find a merchant-services provider that works for you.

How is my merchant-services provider helping me to get my money faster? Answering this question is a step in understanding how the services you’re using are improving your bottom line. Your merchant services should be able to provide a payment solution that is faster for you and more convenient than other merchant-services solutions—make sure it is. Looking at the ways your merchant services provider is helping you to improve cash flow will help you to also see where your business or payments are getting caught up and can use a little improvement.

How is my merchant-services provider helping me to use technology to improve efficiency in my business? Is your merchant-services provider keeping you up to speed on changes in the industry or new technology? Are you using the same services you started with 10 years ago? Are your payment-acceptance channels EMV-chip enabled? In order to make sure your business is keeping up with what customers in your industry want and need, you need to be sure that your merchant services provider is keeping up with changes in technology.

How are the merchant services I’m using helping me to reach my business goals? Business owners are so busy and pulled in so many directions that it’s easy to get used to and caught up in the status quo. Asking this question of your team might not feel as immediate and urgent as making sure online payments are received smoothly, but it’s just as important. Make sure your actions are aligned with your strategy and helping you to reach your business goals. If you’re not sure whether they are, get back to why you needed a merchant services provider in the first place. You might find you need an adjustment in what you’re using, or maybe you just needed a reminder that your business is offering the right services for customer payment.

If there’s something that you feel is missing from the merchant services you’re using, or something your provider hasn’t offered, but you wish they had, ask! Your merchant services provider might not even know that you are looking for a solution in another area. Your merchant services provider won’t have impetus to improve unless you press on them a little. Help them to understand what problems you’re facing with merchant services so they have an opportunity to solve them.

With a thriving business community here, most readers are familiar with some type of merchant services. Asking these questions of your provider, your team and making sure your provider is asking you the right questions will help you to find the right solution for your business, not the right solution for the business next door.

Richard Gray is senior vice president of SBA lending at Bank of American Fork, Utah’s community bank leader, an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. Richard has assisted local small businesses in obtaining SBA funding for more than 25 years. He served on the board of directors for nonprofit Kostopolus Dream Foundation and was the chairman for nonprofit Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund, Salt Lake City.

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Optimizing Your Cash Flow Using Open-Book Management Jun 04, 2015, 3:08 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder

Guest blogger Tyson is starting a series here about open book management. Make sure you check back for additional articles!

My last several articles have dealt with open-book management, a process in which data is shared with employees to help create desired results. My emphasis has been on achieving financial outcomes, since every business venture must make money.  In so doing, I have stressed that the majority of key performance indicators (KPIs) from financial statements are lagging indicators. They are the results of leading indicators that create those financial outcomes.

Today, I want to give attention to the leading indicators that most directly drive your financial results, specifically those metrics that define why your customers spend their scarce cash for your product or service.  This is the reality for all of us; in order to achieve financial success, we must serve the needs and wants of those who pay the bills.

Much has been written about the customer-driven company.  Marketing professionals appropriately focus here, giving excellent counsel regarding customer selection, and how to build and maintain customer loyalty. While offering valuable insight, these experts often fail to make the connection between the strategies they recommend and specific desired financial outcomes. And if they do reference these connections, they rarely focus attention on the measurement of those strategies and correlating them as the cause of desired financial outcomes.

For every customer and market segment in which you do business, customer outcome metrics should be developed. These should include:

A clear definition of the customer problem, need or desire you intend to solve. Even if you have been in business for decades, it’s a good idea to revisit this. From your definition, you will have the basis for determining how well you actually measure up in serving your customer. Often these metrics will include a measure of how well your competition does in meeting those needs as well.

New-customer acquisition measures, such as how well promotional offers create prospect attention, interest, desire and action. Specific metrics here might include sign-ups, downloads, coupon redemptions, referrals, purchases or testimonials. A/B testing can be employed to measure the effectiveness of any two advertising or web marketing strategies against each other, thereby allowing you to accurately determine which strategy creates the best results.

• Core competency factors. Metrics here objectively assess the importance of key elements in your value proposition. They are what you do best, such as providing a continuous stream of innovative products and services, a strong consultative relationship, leading-edge expertise, proven safety or security, on-time delivery, high quality or a myriad of other components unique to your company or brand. How well do these competencies align with solving your customers’ problems?

Often, two or more of these key elements are inherently in conflict. For instance, we often find that a manufacturer’s value proposition offers both short lead times and unerring quality. When customers are asked which of these they want, the answer is inevitably “Both!” However, when rush orders begin to compromise quality, the answer is not so clear. In fact, this conflict often marks the demise of customer loyalty—and the loss of the relationship. Avoiding this type of dilemma requires careful policy decisions, followed by continuous measurement of adherence to the policies chosen, as well as regular communication with customers.

• Customer retention. My clients have often sought an advocacy relationship with their customers; that is, they are not satisfied until their customers are so delighted with their relationship that the customers openly evangelize for the brand. One way to measure this leading indicator is to track your net promoter score (NPS). Based on customer surveys, NPS tracks the ratio of your customers who are likely to recommend your product or service (promoters) to those who are not likely to do so (detractors). By measuring the NPS on a regular basis, your company can ascertain whether customer retention is improving or declining. Further, it provides additional impetus to talk to your customers to better understand why they stay or leave!

The bottom line here is that if you want to have a bottom line, care and feeding of the customer is the key. To do this well, customer strategies must be clearly defined—and they must be tracked and measured to be sure that the correlation between those strategies and financial outcomes clearly exists.  The dashboards created to measure customer strategies should be included in your open-book management practices, i.e., shared openly with all of your employees. When you have done this, you will truly have a customer-driven company!

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models.

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