These 23 Sustainability Heroes, Projects, and Organizations Are Deserving of Global Leadership

These 23 Sustainability Heroes, Projects, and Organizations Are Deserving of Global Leadership

Announcing the Business Intelligence Group’s 2017 Sustainability Awards Winners


PHILADELPHIA, October 12, 2017—Today, the Business Intelligence Group announced the winners in the 2017 Sustainability Awards program. The Sustainability Awards honor those who have made sustainability an integral part of their business practice. For-profit and not-for-profit organizations of all sizes submitted nominations to reward team members and gain exposure for the organization, its initiatives, and the exemplary accomplishments of its leaders as they work to reduce their impact on our environment.

“Sustainability is no longer a business decision calculated solely by ROI. It’s a business mandate,” said Russ Fordyce, managing director of the Business Intelligence Group. “We are so proud to reward and recognize all of our winners and finalists, as they provide a benchmark for corporate citizenship concerning sustainability and the protection of our environment.”

The 2017 Sustainability Award winners are:

Sustainability Hero

Seth Kursman, Resolute Forest Products

Sustainability Initiatives of the Year

  • AT&T’s 10x Carbon Reduction Goal
  • Humanscale’s Living Product Challenge Certification
  • Oracle’s California Water Conservation Project
  • Rayton Solar
  • SBM Management Services’ Recycling Program, Labeling and Standardization Project
  • SL Green Realty Corp., for supporting tenant participation in the NYC Mayor’s Carbon Challenge
  • TerraCycle, Procter & Gamble, and SUEZ for the first recyclable shampoo bottle made from beach plastic

Sustainability Leadership Awards

  • Air Canada    
  • Humanscale  
  • Mission Linen Supply
  • SCS Global Services
  • Workiva

Sustainability Products of the Year

  • ADEC Innovations’ CleanChain
  • Dow Polyurethane’s VORAGUARD
  • Dow Water and Process Solutions’ FILMTEC™ FORTILIFE™ Elements
  • The Dow Chemical Company and the Koehler Paper Group for ROPAQUE™ NT-2900 Opaque Polymer for BLUE 4EST™ Thermal Paper
  • Enablon
  • SodaStream  
  • Xeros’ the Symphony Project 

Sustainability Services of the Year

  • Ecolab’s Water Risk Monetizer
  • iQor’s Sustainability 2020

The judges also named several finalists, Agilent Technologies’ Intuvo 9000 and Oil-Free GC/MSD, Digital Realty, VAI, ARIIX’s Puritii Water Filtration System, Primo Water Corporation’s Pre-filled Exchange Water & Self-Service, Ingersoll Rand’s Next Generation R-Series Compressor, and Dow Building & Construction’s ECOGROUND Green Athletic Tracks and Playgrounds.

The Business Intelligence Group thanks the all-volunteer panel of executives, who gave of their time and expertise to read, analyze, score, and provide feedback to our nominees. They are:

  • Jesse Anderson, Blanton Turner
  • Emily Davis, DHL
  • Dawn Emling, Thomson Reuters
  • Frances Fay, Amec Foster Wheeler
  • Kelsey Hallowell, Reduction in Motion
  • David Harding-Brown, 1HQ Brand Agency
  • Kristina Joss, Salterbaxter, MSLGROUP
  • Rosie Kang, Willdan
  • Beth Keel, San Antonio Housing Authority
  • Bomin Kim, Sasaki Associates
  • Ron Loch, G&S Communications
  • Justine Mouron, GreenDinosaur.org
  • Patti Olenick, Weis Markets
  • Tina Owens, Kashi
  • Joe Parisi, TD Bank
  • Josh Richards, First Potomac Realty Trust
  • Kelly Vickers, Alliance Residential Company
  • Jeff Wilkinson, General Electric
  • Jeffrey Yorzyk, Green Chef

Also, the company announced a deadline extension for nominations in the annual BIG Awards for Business. They are now due October 20, 2017.

About Business Intelligence Group

The Business Intelligence Group was founded with the mission of recognizing true talent and superior performance in the business world. Unlike other industry award programs, business executives—those with experience and knowledge—judge the programs. The organization’s proprietary and unique scoring system selectively measures performance across multiple business domains and then rewards those companies whose achievements stand above those of their peers.

Maria Jimenez
Chief Nominations Officer
Business Intelligence Group
1 909-529-2737

Winners of the 2015 Public Relations Excellence Awards Announced

Fuhu, Eastwick Communications, Metzger Albee, Allison Braley and Nicole Osmer Win the 2015 Public Relations Excellence Awards


PHILADELPHIA, PA-May 13, 2015-The Business Intelligence Group announced the winners of the 2015 Public Relations Excellence Awards today. The industry awards program recognizes agencies, departments and public relations professionals whose work helps to tell the stories of their clients in innovative and meaningful ways. 

“The winners and finalists this year showcase what is possible in modern public relations. Creativity will never let you down, and these agencies and corporate departments have adopted new and innovative techniques to develop meaningful relationships directly with consumers and media outlets.”
— Russ Fordyce, Managing Director of the Business Intelligence Group.

The 2015 Public Relations Excellence Award winners are as follows:

Department of the YearFuhu, Inc. (http://www.fuhu.com) 
In 2014 the Fuhu public relations team positioned the company as the leader in creating innovative technology products and solutions for kids and families. The team’s efforts led the company to wide recognition in the technology industry as well as in the media and being named by Inc. magazine as the #1 Fastest Growing Company in America for two consecutive years and by Forbes as the #1 Most Promising Company in America. The team was able to secure top-tier media coverage from The Wall Street Journal, TIME, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, AdAge, Mashable, CNET and LAPTOP magazine and generated a 3-year growth rate of 158,957%.

Agency of the Year Eastwick Communications (http://www.eastwick.com) 
In 2014 Eastwick moved from being the “best-kept secret in Silicon Valley” to the “newest darling” of the tech communications scene. With careful planning and carefully orchestrated execution, the agency opened a New York office, launched a new brand, expanded its service offerings and announced new partnerships. These efforts led Eastwick to be featured in Fast Company, Entrepreneur and several Business Journals. As a direct result, the agency saw a 63.6% increase in new users to its website and a 25% increase in overall revenue.

Campaign of the Year - Metzger Albee Public Relations (http://www.metzgeralbee.com) 
To generate awareness for their client Coalfire, the Public Relations team at Metzger Albee designed a campaign to react and respond in real-time to ongoing cybersecurity news. The team’s approach paired company executives as thought leaders with reporters covering breaches and other IT risk management issues. As a result, Coalfire and its security experts were featured in top-tier media outlets and trade publications yielding a significant increase in media coverage and website traffic.

Executives of the Year

Allison Braley
Zoosk (https://about.zoosk.com/) 
In her role as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Zoosk, Allison Braley led her team to exceptional performance, successfully increasing brand awareness for the company’s online dating website. Among her many achievements, she was able to deliver a tenfold increase in earned media impressions, from Mashable, Buzzfeed and The Wall Street Journal to the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”

Nicole Osmer
Nicole Osmer Healthcare Communications (http://www.nicoleosmer.com) 
As founder of her own firm, Nicole works closely with companies and physicians to highlight innovation and leadership in the field of health care. Her targeted public relations and social media programs have brought life-transforming medical technologies to the forefront for millions of Americans. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Nicole’s clients include Abbott, CardioKinetix, Ceterix Orthopaedics, NeoTract, Outset Medical, Pelvalon, Shockwave Medical and publicly traded Intersect ENT, which was recently named a Most Promising Company by Forbes. She is also a founding member of MedtechWomen, an educational non-profit dedicated to advancing women leaders in health care.  

The 2015 judging panel also selected three organizations as standouts and named them all finalists in the Public Relations Excellence Awards program. They include Zoosk (http://www.zoosk.com) as Department of the Year Finalist, Uproar PR (http://www.uproarpr.com) as Agency of the Year Finalist and Rainier Communications for QD Vision (http://www.rainierco.com) as Campaign of the Year Finalist.

The Business Intelligence Group also announced the 2015 nomination deadline of June 5th for the Stratus Awards. This program recognize companies “in the cloud” that are developing and delivering unique services. “The adoption of cloud services in consumer and business applications is staggering,” Fordyce said. “We expect to see new innovations and applications that are only accelerating the pace of that change.” 

Organizations and individuals that would like more information can visit the company’s website and download an entry kit at http://bintelligence.com/stratus-awards/. 

About the Business Intelligence Group (http://www.bintelligence.com) 
The Business Intelligence Group is the first crowd-sourced industry awards program to devote itself to the recognition of authentic talent and superior performance in the business world. Unlike other award programs, the Business Intelligence Group’s programs invite real business people with experience and knowledge to volunteer as judges. The organization’s proprietary and unique scoring system selectively measures performance across multiple business domains and rewards companies whose achievements stand above those of their peers.

Avoid a Lawsuit: 7 Tips to Protect Your Small Business from Getting Sued

Photo by ♔ Georgie R via Flickr
Photo by ♔ Georgie R via Flickr

Lawsuits are costly, inconvenient, and overall unpleasant. However, when you’re running a business--especially a successful one--you’d know that lawsuits are inevitable. From discrimination, injury, intellectual property infringement, to contract disputes, the possible charges are endless.

While there’s no solid guarantee your business won’t ever get sued, here are the ways to reduce the risk, protect your business, and stay out of the courtroom.

1. Document everything

This is quite basic, but is seldom done in everyday life. Documenting a well-drafted contract or memorandum that records an agreement is one of the best ways to avoid misunderstanding and prevent lawsuits. Emails, invoices, policies, contracts, should be kept safe to resolve future problems. Even telephone messages from clients, albeit how close you are, should be recorded to protect your business.

2. Understand intellectual property laws

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your business name, logo, and other designs are not violating any intellectual property laws. Some business move forward, only to find out that someone else already owns the trademark to their business name. Before investing in time and resources, do your research. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to make sure that you’re registering your own trademark and not someone else’s.

3. Protect your files

Now that most businesses rely on computers, it is important to ensure safety for your computer system. Viruses can infect your business files, and put you at risk of not being able to perform a certain task. In addition, the infected files may be stolen or lost and can lead to legal action from clients. One way to protect your files is to always have a set of updated backed up files to refer to. Keep them offline to help keep them safe.

4. Create an employee handbook

To avoid misunderstandings with present and former employees, it is best to have an employee handbook that contains all important employment issues. These topics include termination, maternity leaves, sick leaves, compensation and benefits, sexual harassment, etc. The handbook should be given and oriented to the employee upon employment, and should be dated and signed by the business owner and employee. This handbook should also be updated consistently.

5. Think and act safe

Accidents do happen, but you can help prevent it by maintaining your physical business property. One way to avoid personal injury lawsuits is to keep safe the area where your employees work, where customers walk and can potentially slip. You can also consider securing alternative work sites in case of hurricanes and storms.

6. Hire a competent attorney

Aside from giving advice when your business gets sued, lawyers are needed during the entire business operation. They are there to oversee contract reviews, debt collection, and other legal matters, ensuring that your documents are valid and secure. That’s why hiring a good one is imperative. Fortunately, not all of them are as costly as many think. There are legal plan providers such as LegalShield that give small businesses access to qualified attorneys for a low monthly fee.

7. Communicate

One surprising way to avoid a lawsuit is to sit and chat. Try to clear the misunderstanding you have with your customer, employee, or other company who filed against you. Who knows, this simple step can lead you to the road with less heartache and inconvenience.

With these seven tips, your business will be on its way to a hassle-free tomorrow.

About the author A writer and entrepreneur, Melissa Page is based in San Diego, California. She writes just about anything that tickles her fancy and dreams to help and entertain readers with the her writing.

Big Awards SYNC with Global Social Media Guru and Judge @LilachBullock

SYNC Interview with Lilach Bullock of Socialable


Lilach is a business owner, social media consultant, internet mentor and founder of Socialable.co.uk. Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers she is one of the most dynamic personalities in the social media market.

Lilach is frequently consulted by journalists from Forbes, Prima Magazine, The Sunday Times, Social Media Today and BBC Radio 5 Live. She is also a returning Big Awards Judge!

Lilach will share her thoughts on the trends and impact of social media on business and we will gain her perspective on how the role of women has evolved.

Interview Transcript

Russ: I’m excited to have Lilach Bullock from the UK. She runs Sociable, and she is bar none the social media guru to the stars, to businesses, to everybody, so Lilach, thank you for joining us today and I’m glad we finally got to chat.

Lilach: Thank you, it’s a pleasure, I’m got the hook up, but it’s great.

Russ: tell me a little bit about Sociable and what you guys are doing and what you are doing to help companies grow? What is your role in all of this social media madness?

Lilach: Sociable is a leading social media marketing agency. We work with clients all over the world and we help them raise more visibility and ultimately generate revenue for their business using a variety of different online marketing so that’s what we do in a nutshell, as well as we provide training, men touring and I [inaudible 00:01:00] and networker. That’s really in a nutshell what we do. We like to help businesses and charities as well as large corporate and entrepreneurs. A lot of problems or challenges that people have in the online world it’s noisy in there. How can you get heard above the noise and how can you get your brand out there? That’s what we do, we try and think of creative ways to get your message heard above the noise, literally.

Russ: It seems like most companies move into social media first in kind of a reactive mode because somebody said something dirty about them online or nasty, and then work their way into the proactive mode.

Lilach: We tend to get the larger companies tend to have that attitude, so if someone is talking about they not liking what they say, then they react in social media because it’s a very quick way. It’s kind of like they are putting out fires in the end. If someone says something negative about your company and then you’re constantly trying to make them feel happy again It’s a practice that we actually don’t advocate they do, so that engaging is not just about listening and bonding, it’s about generating conversations and obviously getting people talking about your brand the right way. It’s a fantastic way to use customer service and it’s great a company, particularly the larger brands are actually listening to people and engaging with them via social media.

It’s interesting how all companies work as well because a lot of them can be quite skeptical and they think everyone’s using social media, I should be using it. But then they just don’t know how to use it effectively for their business.

Russ: You recommend that more proactive approach of getting in and owning those conversations ahead of meeting and the reactive?

Lilach: Absolutely. For me, social media is all about engaging and building relationships, and it’s very content driven as well. It can be used to generate more revenue but it’s [inaudible 00:03:14] I think about many companies get it wrong they are simply broadcasting and effectively spamming. Sales messages, it’s so much more than that. It’s about providing valuable content where you can showcase your expertise, it’s gaining trust, it’s anything within the niche that you are in.

Russ: How do you think the difference is between business-to-business companies and business to consumer. Is there a difference in the social media approach if you are B2B or B2C?

Lilach: I don’t think there’s a big difference in the approach. I think it’s more about the brand and how much money they spend. I see a lot of larger companies throwing money at it without actually spending time to engage and provide content and value. Smaller businesses, they don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on ads. They actually have to be much more creative to actually reach their audience in a different way. I think [inaudible 00:04:21] is the same and it can give you loads of fantastic case studies of really, really good other brands who you can effectively get really good results and the opposite. I don’t think it serves their purpose, it’s more about the actual company and not my [inaudible 00:04:40]. That’s my personal opinion.

Russ: So if you had to give companies that have a small or nonexistent footprint in the social media atmosphere, what would be your tip to getting started in that media? How do you even figure out where to start? What’s the right way to go about it?

Lilach: There are two parts to it. First of all, social media is very time-consuming and it can be quite overwhelming once you start. I think it’s about appreciating the time is money after all, and where is your audience? Where are they and how can you reach them and what do they react well to and how responsive are they? For example, if your audience is using Facebook or Pinterest, you know you need to focus your time and energy on finding and connecting and engaging with them. Rather than having a I want to be everywhere approach, try to be as targeted as possible and think about where your actual audience is, where are the people listening to you and who you need to connect with.

Once you found them and know where they are and know the type of style that they like and how well they respond I think more than providing content, sharing your value and helping people is the best and the quickest to market and to social media. It’s really not rocket science, it’s how we like to be treated in the off-line world.

I laugh, I don’t know if you do much networking years ago but I was a prolific networker and I attended so many networking events and everything was going to an event probably is getting some business cards and saying hey, look at me, I’m fantastic, I do this. Now, you know you wouldn’t do that, now it’s in the online world. It’s about using a little bit of common sense as well and thinking about how you yourself might be treated and what makes you think oh wow, that’s really helpful, that’s really interesting. You know, social media is very much about sharing and that’s why content is very critical and having an effective social media plan.

When you’re sharing content think about what makes you think wow, that’s terrible. We always talk about going off on a tangent here, but we always talk about getting things by, everyone wants to have the viral effect. Things don’t happen overnight, it’s about planning. People don’t appreciate to get 1 million likes. There is so much planning involved that they can’t just create a video and turn it on and that was it. They built it up, they built their network, they built [inaudible 00:07:30] and then they switched on the viral effect. I think it’s about having a managed and realistic expectation as well.

Russ: You just mentioned two or three or four social networks and finding your audience. How would you recommend that somebody even though try to figure out where their audience is? Most people are familiar with Facebook, Twitter, we now have this great Google plus thing. And then you also mentioned a couple, some may have not heard of like Pinterest. How do you go about evaluating those?

Lilach: I think it’s about understanding your customer is. The more you know about your customer by where they’re located, what they like to do where they like to shop, the more information you know about your customer the easier it is for you to connect with them. Also to provide what they want and what they need. I think it’s something that every business needs to be doing regardless of whether they’re using social media or not because it’s the best way to understand what you’re customer wants. I write not for me, I write for my audience because I constantly have to put them first and think about where are they, what do they like?

Also it’s about taking it to the next step as well and thinking they may be on Facebook but Facebook is so crowded, so busy that I am just not going to be able to have a big enough impact. I want to think of other ways I can find them and using the smaller niche side like Stumble Upon and Tumbler, Google plus for example, although it doesn’t seem very popular and it’s really rising up through the ranks it’s still not satisfactory or noisier than Facebook, and I’m actually seeing much more engagement on Google plus been on Facebook for that very reason.

Even I’m spending more time on Facebook than Google plus. It’s about having a plan as well and working out how much time you have to spend and constantly testing to see what gives you the best results. Everyone wants different things, you know not everybody wants to, I know it sounds strange but everybody wants to make money from social media. For some people it’s a way to listen and to get market research. It’s a way to get introductions, connections, it’s a way to build trust, credibility, drive traffic, build options on the net.

There are so many things you have to think about, what you want to achieve, what are your goals. It all goes about the whole planning [inaudible 00:10:11].

Russ: I know you are a prolific writer and on your website, sociable.co.uk there’s a lot of material there, including a lot of resources and books. What would you recommend to somebody in that early stage social media planning? They go to your website and download?

Lilach: We have a free resources section where you can download a free e-book on five crazy ways, I’ve got it, the title of my book, Five Crazy Ways to Get Traffic to Your Website Now. We also have a checklist for the main social networks like Pinterest, Google plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. wheregoing under checklist and it can help you get up and question what you need to do and at the end of the checklist there’s a list of lots of different tools and resources to help you get the most out of each of those networks. I recommend you do that. I recommend you spend some time looking at my site and if you are really serious about it we can connect that thought and once again call us and feel free to get in touch and we can discuss further how we can help you.

Russ: One of the biggest factors of people not getting into social media is being afraid of making a mistake. What are some of the big mistakes that you’ve seen that brands make but also some mistakes that executives make. We see the Justin Biebers and the others make mistakes all the time, but what are the common business mistakes that you see being made out there?

Lilach: Oh gosh, there are so many, where to start. Just the spamming side for me is a big turnoff. People who just don’t do a message without even knowing you. All they are trying to do is to sell instead of actually build a relationship and get to know you, so I hate that whole thing, but I’ve always hated that. I think for me, social media is about engaging and sharing content. If you get those two things right then you have a successful campaign.

Russ: Good, so all of you listening out there, don’t spam, it’s a nasty habit and don’t engage with people you don’t know. Get to know them personally.

Lilach: Yes.

Russ: That’s great. So now when you are not on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebooking and tweeting and whatever else, pinning, what are you doing in your off time?

Lilach: Off time, what’s that? I have a beautiful young daughter and she’s going to be nine soon. I got her school report yesterday and she did well, I’m so proud of her. She’s a little entrepreneur in the making, actually. It’s wonderful. I’ve been home with my family [inaudible 00:13:12]. I have an and easiness about traveling and I’m very fortunate because I was speaker so I get speaking travel all over the world. I recently won a car as a gift [inaudible 00:13:25] so that was pretty cool. I’m a workaholic and because I’m a working mom, I don’t get much [inaudible 00:13:34]. I love what I do and I’m very privileged to be able to do what I do and connect with so many awesome people all over the world. It’s all good.

Russ: They say the Ferraris are redder in Monaco, is that true?

Lilach: Oh my God, they are green, they are green. I think green is the new color, I tell you I saw more green, luminescent green than anything else. Lots of red. I think I may have saw white, maybe black it’s crazy. You don’t see them, you hear them.

Russ: If I remember correctly I think Harley Davidson was the first motorsports company to actually patent a sound. They patented the grumble out of their motorcycles. I’m pretty sure Ferrari is probably right behind them with their growling.

Lilach: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Russ: That’s the true social media, someone following your growl. I appreciate your time. I would encourage everybody to go to sociable.co.uk, follow Lilach on everything you can. She provides great advice for entrepreneurs. I know her advice and her tweets and her content was critical to the big award getting started in Business Intelligence Group. I’ve been following her for years, her advice really is spot on. You will get a lot of insight following her and connecting with her, so I encourage everybody to do that right now, you can find her and engage with her.

Lilach, we really appreciate all your time and energy going into this and helping companies and we look forward to the 2013 judging.

Lilach: I’m really excited, I can’t wait to see what the new business is. It will be very cool.

Russ: All right everybody, go check her out, sociable.co.uk. Thanks for joining us everyone.

Lilach: Thank you.

Big Awards SYNC with Entrepreneur and Mom Cordelia Blake

Courtesy CNN Money
Courtesy CNN Money

Cordelia Blake started Oh Goody! Party Favors in 2013 after years of frustration trying to find party favors to hand out at her own kids parties that were not "junky." Like many entrepreneurs she wanted to start a business that was product focused, rather than service oriented, so that she could have more flexibility to spend time with her children while providing a better opportunity for growth. Hearing the frustration of other parents she came up with the idea of an online store where parents can buy high-quality toys to give out as party favors-no more bags of junk. Cordelia was no stranger to the web as she owned her own Web Design company for 4 years and worked in marketing and sales at AchooAllergy.com. We'll talk with Cordelia about how she got started, the lessons learned in starting your own online storefront, and how she is managing the daily operation while working to balance growth with her goal of family time.

Big Awards SYNC with Diamond Buyer Anne Johnson from MJ Gabel

A Diamond May Not Be Forever


Anne Johnson is part social worker, part diamond broker and part blogger. As the Managing Director of MJ Gabel she is responsible for growing the business and writes about the diamond industry, trends, and inside secrets. At just 26 she handles clients looking to part with precious diamonds and works to find buyers across the globe. We say down with Anne to talk about her business, the challenges she faces and her tactics to find new customers.

Interview Transcript

Russ: We are here with Ann Johnson. Ann is part of the MJ Gabel Company, which are diamond specialists out of the upstate New York area. We are going to talk to her a little bit about the diamond buying business and working as a small business and talk to her about the economy and how things are going.

Ann thank you for joining us and welcome to Big Awards Sync.

Ann: Thank you Russ for having me.

Russ: Absolutely! Tell me a little bit about MJ Gabel and your role there.

Ann: Sure. At MJ Gabel, I am one of the Managing Directors here. Our company specializes in purchasing diamonds in a variety of forms: old engagement rings, old jewelry. There aren’t that many outlets for people to sell these pieces in the industry. We started this business in order to help those people who are looking for an outlet. Just really can't find a good price or have been unsatisfied elsewhere.

Russ: It's an interesting market you've got, especially during kind of the economic down turn. I imagine this is a similar explosive growth as the gold movement. Has the economy driven for your business? Has it actually been helping your business?

Ann: I think it has a little bit. I think the other thing that's helping our business, in kind of an unfortunate manner, is the divorce rate in this country and the amount of breakups that we tend to see, broken engagements, divorces like I said.

A diamond symbolizes that connection and that love and when that's broken, people have this pieces and their not sure what to do with them. Sometimes, people have held onto them for many years. Now, in this economic climate, people are finding well it's just sitting here, I might as well see what I can get for it. I think most people sometimes are surprised at the value that you can pull back out of the piece.

Russ: How did MJ Gabel get started? I mean, what was the evolution? How do you guys decided to go out and build this new company?

Ann: Absolutely! My partner used to work in the Mergers and Acquisitions Business and he used to trade large parcels of diamonds. He then, kind of, switched gears in working in single stones, which are just obviously the single diamonds in up of themselves. We both happen to be products of broken relationships and had diamonds that we didn't know what to do with it. We work any fair prices. We ended up selling them each for very little. We realizes that there is a place in this market for people to sell diamonds and that place needed to be filled by a company. That's how we came to be.

Russ: What are the other or traditional outlets that companies or people might go to? How are you guys different?

Ann: Sure. Most times, people go to a jeweler first. Thinking this is where I bought the piece. It would be logical that the jeweler then would purchase it back. Then we also see them going to traditional private sale groups such as Craigslist or Ebay. The main problem when going back to a jeweler is jewelers tend to not purchase diamonds back because they don't want to disclose the markup that was made on the original sell.

Let's use round numbers. If you purchase the diamond engagement ring for $10,000 and you walk back into their store and said, "I want you to purchase this back. How much do you give me?" They give you a number, say 4,000. You would look at them like they were nuts because of that increase mark up. They don't like to disclose those numbers, so most tend to not purchase stones back.

Then people tend to go to the private route, Craigslist, Ebay. Craigslist is bombarded with spam these days. Send your ring to a, my cousin in Nigeria. Give you my PayPal account, I mean lots and lots of scams. Then you also have to find someone who loves the ring as much as you do and has the cash liquidity to spend on it. Again, when you purchase a ring, retail originally you can finance it, you can almost get a mortgage on it If you needed to.

There are some boundaries that people have to overcome and get through to sell the piece. It can be a tough journey and that's where we like to come in and offer our services to people to make it an easy transaction.

Russ: You're getting this rings at a fair rate and then what are you doing in return? Are you back out selling those rings? Are you selling them wholesale? How are you guys doing on the sales side?

Ann: Yup! What we do is we actually recirculate the diamonds back into the industry. It's not like, a person would sell us their ring and then two weeks later they'd see it in our showcase, for example. We don't do that.

The pieces are reused, circulated back into the trade. If it's unpurchased, an outright purchase from a client that's what we do. We use our resources, lot of them are outside of this country. There's some big diamond markets in Israel, in Belgium, we utilize those. As an alternative, we also offer brokering service for clients because sometimes it's not a situation where I just purchase it from you. I may guide you to a different source and just broker that transaction to make it smooth for you.

Russ: It seems like you guys are heavy online, what sort of marketing outreach are you doing and what did you found to be successful?

Ann: A lot of it is word of mouth. We strive for very high customer satisfaction. In return, most of our customers kind of pass that word on. If they have a girlfriends that may be just got divorced or knows that they have a ring that they aren't using. But we have to keep in mind that the timing for this is different for everybody. While most people have gold that they can sell, not everybody has a diamond ring for example. It's a life changing event typically. Everybody's timing is different. That's why word of mouth helps us the most. We reach out to some people locally and say, "Hey we're here! If you need us." A lot of its organic searches. People are just finding us organically through the internet. Submitting a form to us and we got on the phone and have a real conversation with them about what they have.

Russ: You're bridging that kind of digital gap and personal gap with the actual human interaction which is..

Ann: We're trying to! Yes, I believe you're not to know is the hardest thing to get somebody on the phone but once you get them on the phone, I think it brings it back into a personal level that we are people. We're a serious company and we strive for that satisfaction.

Russ: It's interesting. I once heard a statistic that, I think it's, you lose, was it, after five minutes of submitting something online, the ability to connect with that prospect goes down like a 100% or something. It's something crazy.

Ann: Yes and that's why, the minute someone submits a form, it gets forwarded to inform our customer service department to one of our representatives. We can at least try and get them on the phone within that same day. If not within a short amount of time, hopefully within an hour. It's usually our goal.

Russ: What are your obstacles of growth? Is it finding new prospects? Is it selling diamonds? What are your barriers right now?

Ann: What are our barriers right now? I think that one of our barriers right now is just finding people at the right time that they're ready to sell their ring. I think that's the hardest thing. I mean, we could blank it in advertising but it wouldn't necessarily make a difference to a lot of people because, again, it is a life changing event. It happens specifically at a time per person and they may not be ready to sell their ring right when they had their breakup. It may be years down the road. That's our biggest obstacle is reaching out to people at the time that they need us. Not necessarily just reaching everybody. However, everybody could be a potential client. It's kind of a balance for us, I think.

That's one of the barriers that we're facing is how to reach people at the right time but then it's also a kind of put a bug in their ear it in a couple of years they’re in that kind of a situation. Not that we want them to be. The reality of this country is, we do have a very high breakup rate and divorce rate unfortunately.

Russ: It sounds like Israel and Denmark have a lower breakup rate.

Ann: I don't know if that's true or maybe they. I don't know what the situation is over there but maybe we do need to mimic some of their styles.

Russ: That's great! When you're not pouring over the diamond trade and looking for new prospects and talking to customers, how do you wind down?

Ann: I have two dogs. I have a boxer and I have a black lab. They keep me busy for now until I have once I'm two feet running around. We love the outdoors, spending time outside. I really take time away. It's coming up memorial day weekend, we're going to the Thousand Islands but I guarantee you, it will still be work. It's mixing work and play for us right now while we're building our business. We try and pull away when we can but you really never pull away fully from it.

Russ: Yes! I know the feeling. Ann I really appreciate you joining us today on the Big Awards Sync. We wish you all the success in the world and really do appreciate you joining us this morning for brief discussion.

Ann: Yes! Thank you Russ very much for having us. I really appreciate it.

Russ: This is been Russ Fordyce and Ann Johnson from MJ Gabel. Ann is a diamond specialist and I guess a recovery specialist, we might say so.

Thanks Ann for joining us and we'll see you next time!

Ignore Your Mother's Advice at Your Own Peril

When we started the Business Intelligence Group our goal was truly to help recognize great accomplishments and to leverage that success to help others. This month we have surely met that goal.

Today my 11-year-old son asked me "Who was more successful, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?"

I didn't know how to answer. Gates' work at Microsoft changed the way we work and communicate, but the same could be said about Jobs and his work at Apple, especially considering the iPhone.

So I asked him, "How do you define success?"

Luckily for me, my mother was in town for U.S. Mother's Day and she looked at my son and said, "Take it from an old lady, do what you love and you will be successful. The money will come if that is what you want."

What would we do without mothers advice!

Over the course of the last few weeks we have published interviews (video/audio with transcripts) of some very successful leaders running very successful companies. Three of these interviews stood out as phenomenal examples of how to define success.

Caitlin MacGregor Co-founder and CEO of Plum - formerly Cream.hr (http://cream.hr)

Rene Lacerte Founder and CEO of Bill.com (http://bill.com)

Scott Knoll CEO of Integral Ad Science (http://integralads.com/)

Three commonalities stood out within each of these discussions and these commonalities are surely the drivers of their success.

3 - Narrow/Laser focus on a single uniform issue or challenge in their market 2 - Unwavering energy and passion for that issue and market 1 - A willingness to share their knowledge for the betterment of others

As you start your week, remembering these "keys to success" will help you refine priorities, renew your own focus and allow you inspire others as you look to lead your teams in the hopes of changing your own world.

Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Big Awards SYNC with Caitlin MacGregor Co-founder and CEO of Cream.hr

SYNC Interview with Cream.hr Cofounder and CEO Caitlin MacGregor

UPDATE: Since our interview, Cream.hr has rebrabnded as Plum.

When the world went paperless, somehow it didn't stop people from continuing to create resumes that were meant to be printed. And without a real standard, recruiters and managers looking to hire still have to digitally sift through endless reams of files, page after page, down arrow after down arrow, searching for that one special person who is "just right" for the position. Cream.hr looks to change all of that with their science-based filters that comb through resumes for you, looking for that needle in the haystack.

We recently featured Cream.hr as one of the 4 must have tools for a start-ups and we'll talk live with CEO and Co-founder Caitlin MacGregor to get her insights on the marketplace and hear how they are managing the explosive growth from the cloud.

Interview Transcript

Russ: Today we’re with Caitlin MacGregor from Cream.hr and that is a software as a service platform designed to help you hire and recruit talent better. Caitlin, thank you for joining us and welcome to the Big Awards SYNC.

Caitlin: Thank you very much for having me.

Russ: Your Company’s got a very interesting model. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of what you guys are offering and then I’ll ask you kind of about how you founded the company and how you guys started it up.

Caitlin: We help companies hire better quality people in less time for less cost. We’re able to that because we actually assess all the job applicants as they apply online and we can predict which ones are going to be the most productive as well as provide a really important intelligence as to what the applicants’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses are.

Employers are no longer fooled by the contents of a resume and when they actually bring somebody in for an interview they really know who those candidates are-their priorities, strengths, weaknesses and ultimately they’re armed with the critical data necessary to hire the cream of the crop.

Russ: You’ve got some secret sauce in there I’m sure it sounds like the marketing wizards who write resumes often are going to be you know left by the wayside there. Tell us a little bit about the secret sauce and how you guys kind of you know came up with it.

Caitlin: There’s a good decade or two of research in psychology that has been able to identify what top performers have in common and our co-founder is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson-he’s a tenured professor at the University of Toronto in [inaudible 0:01:46] Harbor and so his research has been published in leading scientific journals under peer review and he has developed a fake-proof assessment that can particularly identify top performers that have those traits that are in common with top performers and deliver results that are six times more accurate than resumes and interviews combined.

What we do is focus on measuring those qualities in the applicants and then also because it’s fake-proof we’re able to really ask the candidates to prioritize their strengths and weaknesses-they can’t say that they’re good at everything so it’s ideal for a competitive hiring environment. We’re able to provide the employers with that critical data but basically this is commercializing academic research-proven scientific research and bringing that to the mass market.

Russ: Tell us a little bit about how you guys got started and how you all found each other.

Caitlin: This is my third start-up. I was running a company in Toronto and I was running this entire company at a pretty young age so I started seeing an executive coach who was this professor of psychology, Dr. Peterson and then I moved to the United States to New Hampshire to start up and run an educational software company and Dr. Peterson informed me that if I was to mess up my first hire it would be a loss of $300,000 on our company so he let us use his assessment to assess all 80 applicants that applied for this position and two candidates really stood out for different reasons so we hired both of them.

Joel, he was amazing on paper. He had a Master’s in Education, five year’s work experience, had previously worked at a software company; his scores showed that he was going to be just an average worker though but you know he was just too good on paper so we decided to hire him and then there was another applicant Christine and she scored ten points above everybody else.

She ranked in the top 3% of the workforce in terms of her productivity and so we hired her and within three months we fired Joel-he was sitting around playing fantasy football and clocking out early and only doing 10% of the work, whereas Christine was doing 90% of the work and we kept her and after five months she was running the entire operations of the company.

Within a year and a half I had groomed her to replace me when I went on maternity leave and the punch line is Christine had a BA in Fine Arts and seven years waitressing experience. She actually didn’t even know how to use excel when we hired her and yet you know if we had gone by the resume you know no president in their right mind would have ever short-listed her to interview her let alone put the time in to groom her to run the company.

We could have missed a huge opportunity if it wasn’t for the assessment. We used this for two years to hire the rest of our staff. The next hire was a 17 year-old high school student who saved our company a quarter of a million dollars. Literally he would go on to YouTube and teach himself how to do something in half the time it would take us to get a quote back from an outsourced company.

After using this and seeing all these amazing people we decided that we needed to bring this to mass market so just over a year ago, Christine, myself and my VP we started commercializing this full-time. We’ve been working with customers over the last year who has constantly been validating that. They’re hiring people that are three times more productive than their average worker; constantly finding these diamonds in the rough that they normally wouldn’t have found and that they’re saving a lot of time and a lot of costs and ultimately consistently getting top performers by using our assessment in their recruitment process.

Russ: Out of all those customers do you see any trends among them? Are you finding that small customers, large customers, US, Canadian-otherwise? What do you see and who’s latching on to this?

Caitlin: Early adopters-what’s been interesting is that there’s early adopters in all fields. We have helped hire for mechanical engineers that are planning the daily operations of the Mars Land rover on Planet Mars so robotics companies out of California that are looking for not just mechanical engineers but ones that are incredibly entrepreneurial and very out-of-the-box thinkers and so we were able to identify three in a pool of 180 applicants. All the way to publishing companies that are hiring for analysts and sponsorship positions and editor-in-chief positions.

There seems to be you know we’re also helping chain restaurants hire front of staff and bartenders because they’re looking for a particular personality for that and they want to reduce their turnover to large other software service companies that are growing rapidly; that are doubling and tripling in size and you need to hire 400 people within nine months so we tend to find that the thing that these companies have in common is that they’re absolutely committed to best practices when it comes to hiring.

They’re really interested in using science. One of our companies who are full of engineers say they really like the idea that they can engineer their recruitment process. They can use actual data to improve their outcomes. These are companies that are committed to using big data, committed to using science and committed to using technology and aren’t scared about going away from the status quo.

We still use resumes but only on the short-listed candidates. After you’ve seen a short list of top performers that’s when you check resumes to double check for skill sets. You still bring them in to interview but you’re armed with more intelligence than ever before in that interview process so you have to be committed to moving away from the status quo and adapting into something new. The resistance in the industry is that there’s a lot of conservative behavior when it comes to Human Resources but there are across the field a bunch of industries that are trying to be more competitive by adopting innovations like ours.

Russ: I think it’s interesting that you put a number on it which is its going to cost you; it’s a $300,000 mistake. People don’t often think about that about what are all the costs involved in making a mistake. It’s not only that you’ve paid this person over a period time but it’s also the replacement costs of going out and finding that individual-the replacement as well as any other kind of software costs on your business. Did the doctor study that number before he knew that obviously?

Caitlin: There’s a lot of research. The great thing about academia is that they don’t try to reinvent the wheel at every single step. What they do is they go out and find really credible research and build off of that. The assessment is using the big five personality model which is already really well respected and supported by the community-the psychological community but keeps adding innovative twists in terms of how you get the results.

Same thing with the data on the costs of bad hire; there’s a lot of data out there that shows the cost of bad hire. SHRM which is probably the most respected body when it comes to HR has come out with statistics saying that the one bad hire is the equivalent to 90-200% of that person’s base salary. There’s lots of statistics out there and it’s whether or not you want to do it based on that or if you want to talk about the recruitment costs alone-the latest studies are saying that companies spend on average $3,000 per position.

Then you can get into soft costs-if you’re actually talking about the manager’s time of being in those interviews and then the loss opportunity of any damages they could have done or lose of sales. You have to then go through the recruitment process again. I mean there’s a lot of ways to calculate. Whatever you come up with-it’s really, really big.

One of our return-on-investment calculator will calculate for 50 hires in a year using Cream.hr can save a company $1.1 million dollars so that works out to about $22,000 a week. If a company was to use Cream.hr to help them with their hiring of 50 people for the entire year it would cost $25,000 to use Cream.hr for the entire year; unlimited testing. A company would have the return-on-investment in just a little over a week and that’s a 50 times return-on-investment for the entire year. The costs of bad hires and the time wasting and the loss of competing with competitors is just astronomical.

Russ: Tell us about your business model on about how you guys have grown. You’ve got this per hire model right?

Caitlin: Basically psycho-metric testing over the last 20 years has been used on a per test basis and typically at the very end of the hiring process. Often they’ll use it on high level managers, they’ll spend the time going through all the resumes, even maybe do a round or two of interviews and then they would test maybe three candidates and those tests can be very, very costly.

What we’ve done is taken that same level of research but made it so that it’s fake-proof so that lots of applicants take it and we’ve moved it to the beginning of the hiring process. As an applicant applies online they’re actually taking the assessment and employers are seeing the data before they even read a resume. The more people that take the test the more likely they are to find some top performers with the skill sets and the strengths and weaknesses that you’re looking for. We want to encourage as many people taking the assessment as possible so we needed a pricing model that wasn’t per test basis to encourage best practices. The outcome-what the employers benefiting from is that hire. We moved to an unlimited testing, you pay per hire-it ends up being about $500 per hire but it drops based on volume. If a company is hiring 100 people actually works out to be more about $400 per hire.

We create an annual license so sometimes people will start with a few hires at the beginning. Ideally because they’re such a small investment, committing to an annual contract when they pay monthly seems to be what’s working best for our clients.

Russ: Very interesting, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned kind of going into this? What are some of the mistakes and kind of early steps that you took to kind of correct yourself? It sounds like there’s got to be a few things in kind of the initial launch of this where you were like oh I didn’t expect that. What sort of issues did you guys run into and how did you solve them?

Caitlin: I think that the thing that surprised us the most because we were our own customers for two years because we used it ourselves and we used it with a lot of other clients that had consistently given the same feedback that yes the science is accurate that this is actually providing them with better quality hires. I think what surprised us was how difficult it was to get more clients onboard and HR is a very, very conservative mind space and brining something in to the market that disrupts the status quo-the resistance to it and the fear of adopting something new and realizing that even with medium-sized companies it’s a complex sales cycle so you have to get the buy in from HR but they often don’t have the decision making power or the budgets. They’re not necessarily willing to put their neck out there for something they feel is unproven.

The social proof component of making sure that we had the resources available to show look our customers really do believe in this and I want you to hear from them directly so we’ve made sure that we have just under a dozen testimonial videos from our clients talking about the real savings and the real benefits that they’ve received through this. That’s realizing that we needed to put that front and center and so those materials are being launched in the next week on our new website that will be launching.

Really making sure that our customers, our current customers are speaking to our future customers. Realizing that there’s a lot of misinformation out there; a lot of people don’t recognize how ineffective resumes are that whether or not you went to Harvard or you went to the University of Waterloo-it’s not going to tell you if somebody’s going to be more productive than the other. If somebody worked for a competing company that doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to be successful for you. If somebody was great in Sales that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a good Sales Manager so the information on a resume is incredibly ineffective and so having to educate people and change their minds that the materials that they’re using to base their decisions are flawed, I didn’t expect as much resistance in the market and as much fear of science and fear of innovation that we’ve experienced and so just understanding that we have to really try to-instead of disrupt the market but speak to what people already know and try to show how we fit that seamlessly into their existing process and also making sure that when we do talk to companies we get to a Senior level of decision maker as possible.

Sometimes that’s not even HR, sometimes that’s a Chief Operating Officer, sometimes that’s directly a CEO, sometimes that’s even a CFO and realizing that they often don’t want to start the conversation if they think it’s HR so it’s more a bit of marketing. The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that it’s not the product we have to focus on because it works–it’s the marketing and figuring out that code of how do we crack through and get people to listen and be like I need to have this and understand how valuable it is.

Russ: In a lot of spaces you’re talking about that kind of consultative sale and going up into the upper chains of management to kind of get that executive sponsorship and get pushed down into the HR team so that they’re using it. Are you going after that in a direct sales model or strictly through marketing or with partners? How are you looking to get into that kind of C suite?

Caitlin: There’s been-we’ve kind of been trying a lot of different things. One we do direct sales, two we have a big inbound marketing contact creation push so our blog is syndicated by Business Insider. About once a week-sometimes twice a week so that brings us quite a bit of readership and traffic. We’ve been trying to do the inbound marketing, social media and things like that. We’ve also been doing the direct sales.

A lot of businesses come in through referrals, but then we also started to engage with some partnerships of other software in the HR space as complimentary as well as resellers. Recruiting firms-some recruiting firms don’t want to use this unless it’s coming directly from their clients. Other recruiting firms are recognizing that we can save them time and increase the quality of the people that they’re delivering.

We’re talking about kind of a reseller model through that and then there’s very large companies that already service the enterprise clients and so building our technology into their suite of offerings is something that we’ll be focusing on over the summer is building into an existing suite of products being offered through a company that already deals with the fortune 2000.

Russ: You’re obviously a busy CEO and my guess is your productivity levels are pretty high-in the hour that you get off a week or a month, what are you doing for fun and how do you kind of wind down?

Caitlin: We’re starting our family-so first of all my husband is my co-founder. We already worked together three years before starting this company and we function better working together so we can cheat a little bit in that we see each other all the time but when we started this company I had just given birth to our now two year-old.

When we started working full-time on this our son was seven months old and he just turned two 2 weeks ago so when we’re not working it’s about trying to give some family time to our two year-old and now he’s just hit the terrible twos so realizing that it’s going to take even more time and attention but we’re really lucky that we’ve had the support of our families so he hasn’t had to suffer too much.

If he doesn’t see us as much as I’d like he at least is surrounded by a great support system. That’s pretty much what we do when we have some down time. If he’s asleep, I love TV and movies. There’s something about the alternative reality of being able to escape into cinema and theater and movies and things like that so that’s my personal and we’re also big foodies. We love going out and trying new food or cooking new food at home. On a personal level I think that’s how we recharge and then on a family level it’s about making sure that we’re doing things on the weekend with our son and that he’s getting the interaction with us and the community.

Russ: That’s great; I really appreciate your time Caitlin. This has been Caitlin MacGregor from Cream.hr. You should definitely go out and check out their offering-it’s Cream, C-r-e-a-m.hr-sounds like an interesting tool, sounds like the ROI is there, it’s definitely something that could help our business audience recruit better, get the right people on your bus and make you go faster. Caitlin thank-you very much for joining us and I really appreciate your time.

Caitlin: Thank-you very much. It was great talking to you.