AGCMO/TRC Partnership Generates 2nd Class of Graduates

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Early in 2020, AGCMO entered into a partnership with Three Rivers College (TRC) in Poplar Bluff to offer a 6-week certification program designed to propel its graduates into Heavy/Highway construction industry. The first class, taught out of the TRC facility in Poplar Bluff, was dramatically impacted by the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, forcing both a delay in classes and a substantial reduction in class size. Ultimately, in June, the programs first six students received their Heavy/Highway Construction Program certificate.

In October, the second class of students began their training at TRC’s Kennett, MO facility and just before Thanksgiving, nine individuals received their certificate.

Certified and ready for work in the Heavy/Highway Construction Industry

There are currently a number of job opportunities in the southeast Missouri area for individuals qualified to enter the heavy/highway construction industry. MoDOT recently awarded AGCMO member, Robertson Contractors, Inc., a contract to rebuild 20 bridges in the region – and Robertson is quickly putting some of these graduates to work. MoDOT will continue to work on Highway 67 South and other interstates in the region over the next few years, ensuring continued prospects for work into the future.

About the Program at TRC

Students participating in the TRC program pay nothing to attend as the cost is covered by AGCMO’s Education Foundation and Three Rivers College. Maximum class size is 15 people, ensuring personal attention and opportunity for hands-on training using tools of the trade.

The TRC program provides great opportunities to individuals from southeast Missouri to work close to home and provides the opportunity for good paying jobs to individuals from some of the most depressed counties of Missouri.

The third class of individuals seeking their Heavy/Highway Construction Certification will begin early in 2021.

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Altering Your Sales Approach in This Climate

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By TOM WOODCOCK

Tom Woodcock

Sales trainers and consultants around the country are trying to pull rabbits out of their hats. How do you teach traditional sales techniques to contractors in a non-traditional business environment?

Answering that question is a daunting task. I’ll take a stab at it. As I watch and experience what is taking place in this sales climate due to the virus issue, election season and mercurial economic conditions, I’ve noticed a couple trends.

Trend #1: Zoom meetings are leveling the playing field. There are few ways to gain competitive separation when people are meeting from their home offices and kitchen tables. Plus, video fatigue is very real and growing. To combat this, it is critically important to be prepared, upbeat and interesting. If you just go through the motions when you jump on a video sales call, you blend in with the digital white noise.

Have some humor ready, look fantastic, mind your background and for goodness sake, make eye contact. Keep your traditional sales principles in place and achieve some level of commitment by the call’s end. Anything you would do in a physical, face-to-face meeting, do the same in a video call…you can even buy lunch! Have it delivered if your customer is willing and eat together online. You need to be creative to catch attention.

Trend #2: Virtual meetings are losing a level of professionalism. The more relaxed environment of a home office can breed a false sense of security. What happens around you on a call can distract your client. Drop the ocean background video. That’s not standing out. That’s unprofessional. You should be the interest factor, above all else. People are still buying from you, and they have an expectation that you function with the same level of professionalism as you did prior to this season of virtual interaction.

Trend #3: Confrontational topics abound. Stay away from them. Election results, religious points and perspectives on virus numbers can alienate your client. Even if your client or prospect brings up these topics, do your best to avoid the trap. I’m seeing too many salespeople make political statements and judgments that can erect a wall between them and their customers. I respect your opinion, but I really don’t need to hear it during a business setting. Many digital platforms are diving very negatively; selling with the same demeanor can kill your transactions.

Here’s a key to achieving sales success in this climate: Be strong in the vehicles and channels you have available, but always be looking to get as close to normal as possible. Determine what is an acceptable format for you with regard to meeting with customers face-to-face, attending association meetings and networking. After you have done so, look for opportunities that fit into that format. Find clients who are willing to meet face-to-face. It may take more contacts than usual to develop a full roster of meetings, but if it’s important to you, then make the calls.

I’m seeing too many people giving up on sales efforts and focusing solely on their marketing. Though I strongly believe in aggressive marketing programs, you can’t quit on your sales efforts. I’m not here to set your personal standards; I’m only relaying what is working. Individuals who are still getting out and meeting are seeing results. Whether you agree or not with that fashion of sales work in this era, it’s just a fact.

I also understand that different markets have differing restrictions. Staying within those guidelines and effectively meeting with clients is feasible. Unfortunately, this is the world we currently live in – yet commerce is moving forward. Construction predictions are all over the board. That said, the more sales activity you can enact, the greater chance you can secure projects regardless of the economic or political climate.

Good sales work endures. Relationships established prior to these events will cut through the uncertainty. I’ve been selling and teaching people to sell for decades. The one constant is that those who look for every angle to get in front of customers end up being the top performers. There are currently plenty of reasons to explain poor sales performance; just don’t let them become excuses. Digging in and fighting through difficult circumstances is what the champions do. There is business opportunity out there if you look hard and use a disciplined approach. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for a different set of eyes on your sales direction and take some constructive criticism from that individual.

This is a time to roll up your sales sleeves and find answers. Those who overcome can still experience success and growth. The companies that settle for down years will have exactly that. Whether you agree or disagree with the methodology I’ve stated is immaterial. The facts are apparent. You can achieve sales results in a pandemic, during an election year and in the midst of an economic uncertain business climate. Just do what you know you have to do to achieve it.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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Financing Issues Surrounding Modular Construction

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By ELIZABETH A. BARRETT

Elizabeth Barrett

Modular construction is on the rise in the commercial construction industry, including the new AC Marriott NoMad New York Hotel in New York City, the world’s tallest modular hotel originally scheduled to be stacked late fall 2020.

Modular construction is touted as being faster, better and cheaper than traditional construction; however, many traditional commercial lenders are hesitant to toss their hat in the ring and lend money to such projects due to the collateral timing issues involved with such financing. Understanding the basic distinctions between the applicability of governing law is crucial to structuring the modular build contract and avoiding potential pitfalls. 

Background

Modular construction is an alternative construction method in which 60 percent to 90 percent of a building – usually complete with flooring, ceilings, lighting, plumbing and appliances – is prefabricated offsite in individual modules, under safer controlled plant conditions, using the same building materials and designed to the same building codes and standards as normal construction, yet in about half the time with less waste and without the hindrance of weather-related delays. Simultaneously, excavation and foundation work can be completed at the jobsite, saving time and speeding up the total length of construction. Once complete, the modules are transported to the job site and installed like perfectly fabricated building blocks constructed to seamlessly fit together. When implemented effectively, modular construction results in an efficient high-quality product with greater quality control in about half the time, with more predictable costs and with less waste than traditional construction.

The Financing Hurdle of Modular Building

Despite all its positives, there are still many challenges surrounding modular construction, especially when it comes to searching for financing from traditional commercial lenders. The largest financing hurdle of modular construction is the lack of security for the lender. Because the modules are constructed offsite, some courts have held that the prefabricated modules are considered the personal property of the modular builders as building materials, and the modules do not become real property of the modular builder until they are delivered to the jobsite. Accordingly, when financing modular builds, many lenders will only release loan proceeds after the modules are delivered and installed on the real property to ensure the disbursement is secured. This causes issues for the modular builders, as they need the loan proceeds disbursed up front to construct the modules offsite.

A Potential Legal Fix

A solution may be found in the courts’ treatment of mobile homes, modular homes and prefabricated buildings. Some courts have treated mobile homes, modular homes and prefabricated buildings as “goods” under the UCC. The UCC defines “goods” as “all things (including specially manufactured goods) which are movable at the time of identification to the contract for sale…” If the modules are considered goods, fixtures or commingled goods rather than building materials, this offers lenders the possibility of taking a security interest in the modules as “goods that are fixtures or …goods that become fixtures” prior to the modules being incorporated as part of the real estate. This would allow lenders to disburse loan proceeds to the modular builders to construct the modules offsite, while providing the lenders with their desired security. Win-win, right?

Pros and Cons of Applying UCC to Modular Builders

As stated, from a lender’s perspective, a shift to the UCC view would be beneficial and extend their security interest into the fabrication stage when the modules are offsite. However, this may be easier said than done.  Modular construction is challenging in that it is a hybrid that combines both goods and services; therefore, labeling modules as “goods” may not be that simple. Additionally, from a modular builder’s perspective, labeling modules as “goods” may not be as beneficial or desired. Under the UCC, a seller’s security interests in goods are extinguished upon sale to a buyer in the ordinary course of business, even if the security interests are perfected and the buyer knows of its existence. Thus, if modular construction is governed under the UCC, a modular builder (as a seller of goods) could be stripped of any remaining security interests it may have in the modules after a project owner (as a buyer of goods) has paid the general contractor and incorporated the modules into the finished building. This may cause more hesitation on behalf of the modular builders when considering entering into a modular build contract governed by the UCC. 

The Future of Modular Build Financing

Arguably, if courts would shift their interpretation of modular construction to be within the realm of the UCC as “goods,” it would allow lenders to take a security interest in the modules prior to delivery making it more comfortable for traditional lenders to offer financing to modular construction projects. The courts’ prior treatment of mobile homes, modular homes and prefabricated buildings as “goods” under the UCC opens the door for this possible future shift. However, there is no case law applying this interpretation to larger-scale commercial construction. Until then, careful construction of modular build contracts is required to clarify the parties’ mutual understanding of whether the UCC applies and how the various security interests run with the modules. As modular building becomes more prevalent, we can likely expect to see the nuances of whether the modules are defined as building materials or goods and the applicability of the UCC worked out within the legal system to, hopefully, make modular building more palatable to traditional lenders.

Only time will tell.

Elizabeth Barrett is an attorney at Carmody MacDonald in St. Louis and focuses her practice in the areas of banking, real estate, corporate and business law. She has represented financial institutions and other lenders in complex commercial loans and secured transactions, and other clients in general real estate acquisition and development matters.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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The Coming Decade: A Revolution in Technology, Education and Impact of Women

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By Lee Metcalf

Lee Metcalfe

The 2020s will see further transformation of business and society around the world because of technology. This means unheard of levels of productivity across every discipline of the construction industry – actually, across every Industry.

At the core of this movement is information technology and the ability to access and harness huge volumes of data, the ability to put the insights from this data at the fingertips of every worker and the ability to create software, programs and visualizations that increase the usefulness and relevance of that information to businesses and to everyday lives.

But this engine of productivity, like any engine, needs fuel. In this instance, that fuel is savvy, creative, motivated people with the right skills who understand how to isolate the business requirement and focus the myriad of IT tools and techniques to best effect. And we will need a lot of them, which means that the 2020s will bring a revolution in education –

one that will inspire more women and young people of color to choose careers in IT.

According to Sarah K. White, senior writer for CIO Online magazine (January 2020), women comprise 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., but as of 2015, they hold only 25 percent of computing roles, according to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Of the 25 percent of women working in tech, black and Hispanic women accounted for 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

What is happening to reverse this trend? Alignment and collaboration between the educators and employers. Clearly many companies are involved in supporting young people and STEM education on some level. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

Employers are opening their doors to young people earlier and more powerfully than ever before. Employers, school districts and nonprofits like the Girl Scouts will increasingly be working together on levels unheard of in the past. Reaching out to young women to consider careers in industries, such as construction and IT, where they have been underrepresented is a key to our future. 

Jennings School District in St. Louis and Superintendent Art McCoy exemplify this. McCoy starts children thinking about the possibilities and careers in the 3rd grade. Each school year, they are increasingly exposed to employers and a wide range of types of work. Even more importantly, Jennings students focus during their high school years on completing key certificates for their chosen industries of interest in health care, construction, manufacturing, IT or the arts. This is the age of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math – and creative ways to inspire involvement.

McCoy has partnered with area businesses to not only fund creative learning experiences in the school but integrate on site learning experiences (the next generation of internships) into the curriculum. At Jennings, students engage in internships with and site visits to companies and institutions such as World Wide Technology, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Clayco. McCoy has taken the district’s construction career development initiative and put it on steroids. 

From graduates leveraging their internship experiences into job opportunities to graduates going on to higher learning, Jennings School District has them. Malik Sediqzad, a graduate who is becoming an architect with a full ride to Harvard, is one of them. The district is claiming success across the board. Women in technology are and will continue to be a big part of the STEAM that is fueling the productivity surge of the coming decade.  

Lee J. Metcalf is vice president of community engagement at Daugherty Business Solutions and a retired Navy Reserve Rear Admiral.  https://www.daugherty.com/

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Minimizing Your Risk of Cyber Breach

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Submitted by: Schmersahl Treloar & Co.

Concerns about cyber threats disrupting core operations are now a top operational risk.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has called threats to cybersecurity “the biggest systematic risk we have facing us.”

Given the impact that breaches can have and the level of sophistication shown by hackers in recent breaches, it’s not a matter of if a breach will occur, but when and how it will occur.

Cyber data — including financial data, sensitive customer information and employee records stored on the cloud or on the company’s technology devices and networks — is one of the most valuable assets many companies own. Each year, management should evaluate what’s being done to protect these intangibles, where vulnerabilities exist and how to make the assets more secure. Here are some cyber protection best practices for you to consider.

Think Big (and Small)

Many hackers operate overseas, making them harder to identify and prosecute. So, think globally when assessing your cyber breach risks.

However, hacks are often perpetrated through the victim’s small or midsize vendors. That’s because smaller companies often lack the resources to put strong security measures in place — and hackers are ready, willing and able to take advantage.

Consider the 2017 breach of the Equifax credit bureau when hackers gained unauthorized access to sensitive personal information on more than 143 million individuals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The theft was accomplished though a vulnerability in a website application.

That was just one high-profile hack. Other big-name victims have included the Securities and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan, Target, eBay, Home Depot and Yahoo.

In the Target case, hackers reportedly obtained information through a third-party heating and air conditioning vendor, which had access to the retailer’s computer network. The stolen credit and debit card data was then moved to a server in Russia. Many other cyber crime incidents have also reportedly been linked to vendors with lax security.

Some companies limit outside access to their computer networks, refusing supplier and customer requests to share data. Others require vendors to verify their network security protocols. Some companies are establishing cyber security ratings — similar to credit scores — based on the amount of traffic to a company’s website coming from servers that are linked to cybercrime. As those ratings become more refined, managers may choose to avoid doing business with high-risk customers and suppliers.

Engage in “Cyber Hygiene”

Protecting against cyber threats is an ongoing challenge, not a one-time event. Every time a software, hardware or application manufacturer releases an update or patch, install it immediately on every device in a systematic fashion. Why? Hackers constantly troll for the latest patches and updates because they show where vulnerabilities exist. If hackers are nimble, they can exploit these vulnerabilities to steal data before customers have a chance to install the fix.

Another useful prevention strategy is requiring periodic changes to log-in passwords. Hacked passwords can cause a domino effect, because people tend to use the same password for multiple accounts. For example, when Adobe lost 33 million customers’ log-in credentials, other websites discovered that their accounts were being accessed using passwords stolen from Adobe. Some companies also use a security question or require users to select a preferred image to add another layer of identity verification.

Limit Access

Companies often have more devices connected to the Internet than management realizes. Moreover, when employees take devices out of the office, they expose data to less-than-secure home networks and public hotspots that provide wireless Internet access. Evaluate which devices need to be connected to the Web and take steps to minimize off-site risks. Consider limiting which employees can work from home, educating employees about the risks of cyber breaches and installing encryption software on devices that link to external networks.

Encryption may create compatibility issues when sharing data with other companies and slow down data transmission. But it can be a powerful and cost-effective tool in the battle against cybercrime.

Seek Outside Help

Cyber security is an important task that few organizations can handle exclusively in-house. Consider seeking outside help to reinforce your current information technology (IT) policies and procedures. For example, a growing number of small and midsize companies use outside computer security companies to evaluate vulnerabilities in their network and test how well in-house IT professionals are securing their networks.

Another popular security measure is cyber liability insurance. Professional and general business liability insurance policies generally don’t cover losses related to a hacking incident. Cyber liability insurance can cover a variety of risks, depending on the scope of the policy. It typically protects against liability or losses that come from unauthorized access to your company’s electronic data and software.

Instead of purchasing a standalone cyber liability policy, you can add a cyber liability endorsement to your errors and omissions policy. Not surprisingly, the coverage through the endorsement isn’t as extensive as the coverage in a standalone policy.

In addition, external auditors can help companies evaluate their exposure to cyber breach risks. Risk assessment is an important part of year end audit procedures. Forensic accountants are familiar with ways to identify and reduce cyber breach risks. Failure to protect valuable intangibles against the risk of cyber breaches can turn this valuable asset into a costly liability.

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The Future of Office Space in a Post COVID-19 World

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By BRIAN J. NOLAN

Brian Nolan

COVID-19 has led to an enhanced health consciousness across the country, affecting virtually every aspect of our lives. In response, federal, state and local governments implemented laws, rules and regulations regarding health and safety. These changes will have an impact on how we work and on the future design of the spaces where we work for the months and years to come.

Which rules and regulations will affect the office?

The CDC rule that will have the most immediate impact on office use and design is the need to establish policies and practices for social distancing, including closing or limiting access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact in the office. For local level guidance, a best practice is to contact your local attorney to walk through all local requirements, which can vary greatly depending on location.

To comply with the new guidelines, building owners and the companies/tenants within their buildings must work together on solutions that keep offices safe and a viable option. A focus should be to find ways to foster collaboration while accommodating the health and safety of office members as employees slowly return and office spaces gradually increase to full capacity.

Outdoor Meeting Areas

Where possible, one option for more open meeting spaces is an expansion of accessible, quality green spaces and outdoor areas where people can gather while socially distanced. The ability to foster teamwork is an important factor to consider when designing office space. Collaborations between co-workers still need to take place while taking into consideration new health guidelines. Outdoor areas allow for socially distanced meetings and could be used by office members as a place to meet, discuss, and collaborate.

It is in the best interest of building owners to invest in ways to bring people together and enhance the space while conforming to social distancing guidelines. Businesses will likely focus on maintaining some semblance of their normal office culture through design changes, while building owners will look to enhance their properties to bring more value. This value can be driven by investors who have already begun showing an increased interest in sustainable investments.

Individual Working Spaces

The glory days of shared office spaces and co-working space may be behind us, at least for the time being.

Video conferences have proven to be low-cost, efficient alternatives to in-person meetings. The need for individual spaces that allow for people to participate in video conferences without disrupting others will have an increasing importance in a post-COVID office. Individual office spaces will also reduce close interactions and the use of communal surfaces. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has already shifted its focus to reducing the spread of COVID in the office through updating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) strategies to address factors that could affect COVID spread within the office – such as indoor environmental quality and cleaning – and by creating new pilot credits focusing on social distancing, nontoxic surface cleaning and air quality. The implementation of strategies for clean air and clean surfaces will be supplemented by individual spaces, allowing office members to maintain their own work area and keep a safe distance from others in the office.

New Office Construction

COVID-19 has many in the construction industry questioning the market for newly constructed office buildings and asking how construction will look in the future.

COVID will likely change new office construction designs. Technological advancements such as touch-free elevators and touch-free thermal scanning at lobby security desks may be implemented in new builds. Construction job sites may see increased usage of digital collaboration tools, 4D and 5D simulations and online channels for everything from monitoring employees to ordering materials and maintaining cash flow. 

Outside of technological advancements, larger corridors and washrooms are a possibility due to social distancing requirements. Rooftop gardens, or other green outdoor balcony areas, are also sustainable options for new designs. Look no further than the extensive outdoor garden area and green designs planned for the Forsyth Pointe office building currently under construction in Clayton. These gardens and balconies could be used in the same ways as the outdoor spaces described above.  

While the extent of the long-term impact remains to be seen, office spaces as we know them will face both immediate and enduring changes.

Brian J. Nolan is a partner at Carmody MacDonald and focuses his practice on commercial real estate, banking and business law. Carmody MacDonald is a St. Louis-based law firm offering business, individual, and litigation services and focused on establishing close relationships with clients, serving as valued counselors and providing exceptional service.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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Three Marketing Secrets to Make Your B2B Digital Life Easier

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By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

Stephanie Woodcock

While we are all working tirelessly to increase sales in this unsettled business environment, I’m giving away some of my digital marketing secrets to help you.

Listening to clients’ needs and struggles in the construction industry has helped me develop a syllabus of sorts. I begin with Digital Marketing 101. When clients start asking about Google rankings, Facebook ads and website analytics, I remind them they have prerequisites to meet before getting to that class.  That’s Digital Marketing 301.

There are many so-called “experts” and new digital marketing channels; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One size does not fit all. 

Secret #1: You don’t have to do it all to get quality leads. 

Pro Tip: If your marketing person is trying to upsell you on these new ways to get leads, be wary. It’s not supposed to be complex. A simple website that tells a story, presents a problem and solution, provides key client success stories and asks for the sale with strong call-to-action buttons is a great start. 

Ask your marketing person: How do you wireframe a website to get more leads? If they don’t have a good answer, find someone else!

Great copy supported by clear and inspiring design helps connect your company to your customer’s needs and is another must-have. Hire someone who can accomplish this and understands your values and core principles. 

I was recently asked by a client, “Why do we need to upgrade our website if we get most of our leads and clients through associations and relationships? Why do we need to invest in a more modern looking site if we are growing organically through referrals?”

When I asked my client what type of clients he was attracting, he identified large engineering companies with multiple layers of potential customers. 

My answer: If you are going to increase your business within this company through referrals, you need to upgrade your brand and digital identity. If you are referred from one customer – who knows you – to a colleague in the same company who does not know you, chances are good that the new referral will go straight to your website to gain a sense of who you are.

This client asked a valuable question: In a tight economy, why should I invest precious dollars in a website when the one we have is adequate enough? Does anyone really go to my website? The answer for his company is yes.

Your website should be a visual representation of what you want to convey to the customer. It needs strong, clear copy with visual, inspiring design. In this case, a multi-million-dollar industrial engineering firm was searching for a national specialty contractor with money to spend on an updated website. The firm was not looking for a budget company who clearly cut corners. Image matters.

In these times, where face-to-face interaction is sparse, our digital footprint is even more important.  

Secret #2: Sell the story before selling your product/service. 

As a business owner, have you ever sat down with a salesperson and halfway through the pitch you wonder what it is they are selling – and what it has to do with you? This sales professional has forgotten his/her story and is only selling the product. 

The story is the why behind the what. Why do I need what you are selling? How will it make my life better, easier and more successful? Selling the story makes everyone want to know how it ends. 

Too often, B2B companies forget to be interesting. They focus too much on content and details of the product/service that they miss telling the big picture of why prospects should consider doing business with them.

Good copy opens a story loop in the prospect’s head, making them want to keep reading to find out what the answer is. 

I recently talked with a future client who was struggling with converting website traffic to leads. A quick audit of the client’s website revealed overarching, glossy statements like “sustainable solutions,” “make every drop count” and “chemical free is the better way.” The site quite literally showered me with statements about the benefits of the organization’s product. Yet I didn’t know what was sustainable, and if it was supposed to be dripping. Making something “chemical free” sounds positive, but that depends. Are we talking about food, water or hair products? I rather like the effects of the chemicals they put in my hair. 

The site was also missing strong imagery to help the consumer understand the industry and product the client was portraying. And it was missing strong copy and inspiring design. 

We needed to engage the customer by presenting a problem and our solution to that problem. How do I save the prospect money and headaches by solving a common problem? 

Secret #3: Marketing can be aggressive and that’s okay.

While it depends upon the marketing channel, it’s okay to ask for the sale with strong calls-to-action in your marketing. “Buy Now, Contact Us, Get a Quote, Book an Appointment, Schedule a Consultation” are so much better call-to-action statements than: “Learn More, Click Here, Find Out More” or (God help us all) “Read More.” When you have strong problem and solution verbiage above the fold, you can and should ask for the sale with noticeable call-to-action buttons. 

Closing deals and warming up leads is not just for the frontline sales team anymore. Digital marketing is now the front line. Hit the pain points. Create urgency. Tell the story of why your customer needs you.

You can be aggressive and straightforward. From websites and email campaigns to social media posts and sponsored ads, make sure your copy is strong and your call to action is stronger. 

I like my first cup of coffee strong and my second cup stronger. 

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative & communications firm. She can be reached at stephanie@sealthedealtoo.com.

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The Basics of Eminent Domain for Property and Business Owners

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By RYANN C. CARMODY

The concepts involved in eminent domain law are complex and confusing. To shed some light, below are answers to some frequently asked questions many people have about eminent domain and the condemnation process.

What is eminent domain/condemnation?

Eminent domain or condemnation is the power to take property for public use and requires just compensation to the landowner. The legislature has adopted legislation that allows the taking of property for redevelopment if the taking removes blight.

Both personal and real property are subject to condemnation. In Missouri, eminent domain proceedings are governed by Missouri Revised Statute §523.000.  

Who has the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain? 

The legislature has the right to delegate the exercise of the sovereign power of eminent domain. Cities, counties, sewer districts and library districts – to name a few –

have the power. Unless restricted by the constitution, the power is unlimited and practically absolute. The right to exercise the power of eminent domain does not automatically lie in counties’, municipalities’ or public service corporations’ authority.

How will I know if my property is going to be taken? 

Pursuant to Statute §523, there are several steps a condemnor must take before your property can be taken by eminent domain. Missouri law requires that the condemnor engages in good-faith negotiations before a condemnation order is entered by a court. You must be informed by the condemnor at least 60 days before the Petition in Condemnation can be filed. Next, you must receive a formal offer letter from the condemnor at least 30 days prior to the filing of a petition. This offer should contain an appraisal by a state-licensed appraiser to justify the offered purchase price. Further, this offer must remain open for 30 days. At this time, you may choose to accept this offer in lieu of further litigation, or you may reject it either in writing or by a lack of response.  

What if MSD (Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District) wants an easement? Is that a “taking?”

Yes. That is a partial taking. You have the same rights as if your property were to be totally taken. However, damages in a partial taking are calculated as to the loss in market value to the land.

What happens if I reject the condemnor’s offer letter

Generally, in Missouri, the condemnation proceedings are divided into the following categories: 

  1. Condemnation Hearing – An evidentiary hearing conducted in court to determine if the condemning authority has the legal right to condemn your property.  
  2. Commissioners’ Hearing – At or around the time that the order of condemnation is entered, the court must appoint three commissioners to assess the damage you have sustained as a result of the taking. These commissioners will hear evidence from both parties and make a just compensation determination.  
  3. Commissioners’ Award – After the commissioners determine the amount that must be paid for the taking, the award will be filed with the court. The title to your property will transfer when the condemning authority pays the commissioners’ award into the court’s registry.

If you reject the offer, the condemnor will likely file a petition in court. A judge will then conduct a hearing to determine if the condemning authority has the legal right to condemn your property. The judge may then appoint three commissioners to determine the compensation you should receive for the taking. These commissioners then file their award with the court.

What if I think my damages are more than what the commissioners awarded? 

Either party can request a jury trial on the damages.

Can the condemnor come onto my property to perform studies before he/she takes the property?

It depends. Oftentimes the condemning authority will need access to the property for surveying, geological or environmental testing. First, you can always allow access to your property. However, if you refuse access, the condemnor can ask a judge to order the access. The courts look to see how intrusive the undertaking will be on your use and enjoyment of your property. For example, courts have found that simply putting land surveying stakes in a property is permissible. Conversely, certain geological and environmental tests may require a more invasive test that could affect the use of the land and the value. Therefore, this type of testing would constitute another taking for which you would be separately compensated.

Ryann Carmody is a partner at Carmody MacDonald P.C. in St. Louis. She concentrates her practice in the area of general civil litigation, including Eminent Domain and Title IX matters. Carmody can be reached at rcc@carmodymacdonald.com or 314.854.8620.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.  

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Mobile Security: Protect Your Device and its Confidential Info from Falling into Enemy Hands

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By BARRY HERRING

If you ask people what IT security means, you are sure to get a different answer from each person who answers the question. Working with companies every day, we are constantly communicating the need for security and trying to find that balance of what is needed and falls within their budget.

Let’s talk specifically about mobile security. Smartphones, laptops, tablets. Mobile devices are becoming a gigantic part of the daily business landscape. Working at a jobsite, working from home or working while traveling, most people possess a minimum of two mobile devices, typically a smartphone and a laptop.

Smartphones are a critical part of any security-related discussion. Many people forget about them and what they mean to our daily lives. First, most people, not their employer, own/lease their own smartphones. Unless your company issues smart phones, most employees will use their own smartphone for convenience. Because good employees want to stay on top of their work emails, they will configure their smartphone to retrieve company emails from the server, downloading emails that may have client data, company data and – depending upon their job – confidential employee information or attachments that contain confidential company information. This information could include employee contact information such as home addresses, personal cell phone numbers and clients’ contact information.

If an individual loses or has his/her smartphone stolen, his/her first reaction is to replace it. No need to tell the company, the individual often assumes, because it is not the employer’s phone. But what about the data on the lost or stolen phone? Much of that was company property. Now the real struggle begins. Who now has possession of my company’s data? What do they have? Are they in possession of my clients’ information, projects/bids details or potentially the proprietary work our firm produced for them?

How many employers or managers reading this article have overheard an employee say something like this? “I was on the jobsite the other day, left my truck unlocked and my phone was on the dashboard. When I got back to the vehicle, the phone was gone.” Or “I left my phone at the restaurant last night and someone took it.” Smartphones are easy targets. Most are small and easily fit into a pocket. No one notices someone with a phone in his/her hand. They are everywhere. Easy access to confidential information also applies to laptops and tablets that are misplaced or stolen.

If you have mobile device management (MDM) for these devices, you are able to do many things, some of which include the following:

  • Remotely change the password and tell the device to lock itself. If the phone is recovered, the user can log in and change the password.
  • Do a remote wipe of selected data, email accounts and/or company-installed programs.
  • Do a complete wipe and remove all company and personal data.
  • Track and locate the piece of equipment when it is turned on.

What can be accomplished depends upon the MDM software you choose. Most are managed by a central portal (website) that can be logged into from anywhere by an administrator and select features can be executed.

If your company does not have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, you may need to create one for your employees. The BYOD policy will need to cover items such as this: If employees want to set up access to company email, access company data or install company software, they will have to allow the device to be set up with MDM. The policy may likely also need to cover how much time is allowed before an employee must report a lost or compromised device. This policy can be very comprehensive or brief, depending upon what best suits your organizational needs.

If your company does indeed issue mobile devices to employees and one of these devices is lost or stolen, an additional benefit of MDM is that you can set it up to deploy and configure applications from a central location. If you have software, email or data that you want to be deployed to a mobile device, you can push it out to all or selected devices.

Barry Herring is CEO/president of CMIT Solutions, a St. Charles/Chesterfield-based provider of enterprise-level services, products and expertise. Herring can be reached at 636.489.3669 or bherring@cmitsolutions.com.

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New Outside Sales Realities: Creatively Continue Your Process and Stay Ahead of Your Competitors Who Don’t

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By TOM WOODCOCK

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Tom Woodcock

There apparently is a new normal in business. Now everyone will live by Zoom and companies will save tons of overhead.

COVID has changed business forever. At least, that’s what we’re being told.

I see a couple significant issues with this perspective as it relates to outside sales efforts. The people perpetuating this belief tend to be administrative, cost-oriented personnel. The majority of their responsibilities take place in an office environment, so transitioning to solely electronic communication seems “completely logical,” as Mr. Spock would’ve said.

The first problem: What do the Captain Kirks of the world do? As many of us have noticed, people are already experiencing Zoom fatigue. The lack of personal contact and socialization is beginning to wear on people. We are social creatures. As such, we look forward to personal contact. This need will resonate in a louder cry as more companies try to drive their staffs to work from home.

The second problem: When you relegate all business activity to digital communication, you lose a major aspect of competitive differentiation, and that’s the sales individual. The unique abilities good salespeople have to read, connect and influence customers are more critical to profitability and the closing of transactions than many administrative personnel care to admit. Removing this element from the sales process can virtually guarantee a reduction in profitability – possibly a noticeable drop in revenue.

Before you brand me as a rebel against safety practices, understand that I realize there are restrictions in place with regard to face-to-face contact. The fact is this: The business environment is reopening enough for you to begin reengaging your outside selling process. The quicker you’re able to restart those efforts, the faster you’ll establish a sales presence. Remember my lifelong credo; Sales is the most important aspect of any business. Everything else hinges on a successful sales effort. Without it, all the cost savings in the world will amount to nada.

The challenge many companies will face is the level of uncertainty that exists currently.

When is it okay to make calls?

Where can I take customers to lunch?

What level of face-to-face contact is allowable?

How do you accomplish this when there are other internal company restrictions?

Great questions. Not to mention attempting to do a sales meeting with a face mask on. I’m not a medical expert, nor will I judge anyone’s convictions, but if you want to maintain a successful business going forward, you’ll need to solve these problems. Is there risk? Yes. Outside salespeople understand risk. They drive way more miles than most of us, risking a higher potential for vehicular accidents. They see more people from different walks of life, risking other health issues, project safety concerns and just plain rejection.

We get it.

My goal here is to bring understanding to how critical your outside sales effort is. Some say you can make more contacts if you work digitally. True, but so can your competitors! Oops. Didn’t think of that. What appears to be a great cost-saving idea may not be the case relative to external sales.

As companies decide to move their sales efforts internally and digitally, many of the sales personnel with whom I work will be ecstatic. This gives them a new edge. They can increase their contact list to maintain contact levels before the world of COVID. That’s the challenge before them.

If half of the previous contacts who would normally meet will not do so in the current environment, simply increase your contact list to offset the loss of those contacts. For those who will not meet face-to-face, simply manage them digitally. But you may lose some of these contacts and see a drop in profitability with that group.

The bottom line: Keep your outside sales effort moving in some capacity. To ignore or stop that effort could be disastrous. We are social creatures and we need interaction. This is true in relation to the business world, too, as well as in our private lives. Keep fighting for each transaction. Just don’t disarm your sales agents.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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