The Stevie Awards Blog

How to Leverage PR to Build a Strong Business Brand

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 @ 02:48 PM

Every new business or product is launched with the hope it will eventually become a big brand. However, getting the amount of reach and recall that goes into building a recognizable brand is no easy feat. Barring a few exceptions, most brands are built over several years of persistent marketing and strategic public relations (PR). However, many businesses are so busy building and perfecting their offerings that they forget to dedicate time to think about marketing and PR.


How PR Can Help Build a Strong Brand

Some businesses associate PR with crisis management, and they think it’s only to be called in when a company’s reputation is at stake. Crisis management, however, is just one of the many aspects of public relations. PR, when done well, can lay the foundation for a strong brand presence and can help grow the business.

PR firms and professionals today use an ever-evolving mix of tools and strategies. These include standard approaches such as press releases, conferences, and trade shows, as well as new-age tactics such as social media, influencer outreach, and disruptive technology. These firms also tend to have authentic relationships with the media, influencers, and other partners that might be valuable for businesses.

All these channels, though, are really just facilitators for PR. The true power of PR lies in its ability to build an impactful story around your brand.

“At its core, the art and essence of PR come down to one thing: storytelling,” writes Craig Cincotta, senior director of marketing communications at SAP, in an article on Entrepreneur. “Every brand, technology, product, and person has a story to tell. Whether you are a business of five people or a Fortune 50 company, you need to know how to tell your story the right way, at the right time, to the right people.”

All these channel capabilities and the ability to create authentic stories allow PR firms to help businesses launch, build, and maintain their brands. Also, public relations is often an immersive and time-consuming task that requires consistent efforts. Therefore, it makes sense for many companies to bring in people with PR experience to help with brand building instead of just winging it.

How to Choose a PR Agency for Your Business

If you have employees with great communication and people skills and who are knowledgeable about how PR works, you may choose to do PR in-house. However, if you don’t have the resources or time to spare and want to work with external PR firms or consultants, it pays to do your research and carefully consider who you want to work with After all, you’ll be handing over your brand and image for them to mold.

Here are some pointers as you begin your search:

Look for passion. The firm should be excited about what your business does and should be invested in your growth. Look at their past successes and clients. If they’ve helped other businesses like yours scale and improve reach, that’s a point in their favor. Some firms are specialized and cater to specific business categories. Look for those with experience in your field. Proven expertise and knowledge of the latest innovations or trends in PR are important as well. When you zero in on an agency, ask around. Consider testimonials that speak toward results as well as negative reviews.

ChicExecsLogo-1ChicExecs, a full-service branding agency based in San Marcos, California, United States, checks all these boxes for their clients. Their team of over 50 people helps companies with PR, marketing, and retail strategy.

“We're not an agency that started just to do PR and marketing. We started because we have such a passion for our brands,” says Amber Masciorini, a senior PR account executive at ChicExecs.

Prior to starting ChicExecs, the founders built ChicBuds, a product line that made it to Target, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, and several other retailers. They were also featured on The Today Show, in People and InStyle, and other media outlets.

“As entrepreneurs themselves, the founders know how difficult it can be to start a product line and build it into a successful brand,” says Masciorini. “By garnering exposure in the biggest media publications and placements in major retailers, they had a bird’s-eye view of what it takes to appeal to buyers and the media. They then duplicated their recipe for success and created ChicExecs.”

ChicExecs recently won a Bronze Stevie Award in the Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories for Public Relations Agency of the Year at The 17th Annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

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Tags: The American Business Awards, public relations awards

Can Tech Start-Up Driven E-Commerce Sites Compete with the Big Guys?

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 06, 2019 @ 12:08 PM

One of the Internet’s initial promises was that it would finally democratize the world of commerce. Two decades later, however, there’s serious talk about whether web sellers like Amazon are monopolies. 


The web has certainly lowered barriers in one critical sense: a business no longer needs huge amounts of capital to open a storefront and to start reaching customers. Part of the reason the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba are dominating market share, though, is their sheer logistical superiority. There’s simply no way most small or even medium-size businesses can ship as quickly and cost effectively—or to as many countries—as their larger rivals.

A company with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, United States, is hoping to bridge that divide. Launched in 2015, Stevie-winner Easyship offers a platform that helps small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) more efficiently meet their logistical needs.

“We believe any business, regardless of size, should be able to sell worldwide,” says Jacqueline Ostrov, head of growth at Easyship.

easyship_logoBy integrating with the Easyship platform, e-commerce sites can offer a wider range of international shipping options to customers around the world, and because the rates couriers charge through Easyship are already negotiated, the firm says clients save an average of 40 percent off their shipping costs.

“We've saved our brands over one hundred thousand dollars each in shipping and fulfillment alone—all while expanding their networks and sharing really cool products around the world,” adds Ostrov.

The company also helps sellers manage international duties and taxes, which is a notoriously complex challenge for smaller ventures. Its platform calculates those charges automatically, meaning sellers don’t have to worry about their products encountering problems at customs or finding themselves having to pay unexpected costs.

“Merchants need to understand that the post-purchase experience is as meaningful as customer acquisition,” says Ostrov, whose company earned the 2019 Gold Stevie® in the transportation category of the Web Achievement Awards for the American Business Awards® . “With that in mind, Easyship not only cares but wants to make your customer experience both exceptional and easy.”

The “Aha” Moment

For a growing number of e-commerce sites, overseas sales are becoming a critical part of their growth strategies. According to a survey last year by the intelligence firm Digital Commerce 360, as many as 80 percent of respondents stated that cross-border e-commerce was “a critical source of our e-commerce growth in the future.”

Among this group is Satisfye, a small US-based company that makes accessories for the Nintendo Switch gaming system. Initially, the business only sold to two countries and used just two couriers to manage shipments.

Since making the transition to Easyship, Satisfye has expanded into more than eighty countries and now uses thirteen delivery services. In the process, it’s saved roughly $60,000 in fulfillment costs, according to Easyship.

The founders of Easyship, Tommaso Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac, started their careers at the European e-commerce giant Lazada. As they worked to expand the site’s presence in places like North Africa and Southeast Asia, Ostrov says they quickly saw barriers that smaller firms had to face when looking to expand their businesses. She calls this an “aha” moment for the pair.

Over the next couple of years, Tamburnotti and Ceyrac set up a main office in Hong Kong and worked on developing a new platform and building international courier relationships. In that time, the customer base and physical presence of Easyship grew enormously. The company now has offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, including its new headquarters that opened last year in Brooklyn, New York, United States.

The company also recently closed a $4 million round of funding in 2018. Cofounder Tamburnotti told TechCrunch that the financing would help Easyship develop its technology and build on its network of shipping and logistics partners.

“The future of e-commerce is the enablement of hyper-local, as well as global and domestic shipping experiences,” Tamburnotti said in a statement. “Our goal is to give merchants back the control of a complicated supply chain with the best product possible so they can enhance sales and purchaser experiences.”

Easyship recently won a Gold Stevie Award for Best Transportation Website in The 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Tags: best website, The American Business Awards, e-commerce awards

How Digital Transformation Helps Combat the Food Waste Crisis

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 @ 10:50 AM

Is your organization interested in digital transformation? Using digital technologies to change traditional ways of doing business has been under way for years, but recently this wave of digital innovation has come to the fresh food supply chain and post-harvest technology.


The fresh food industry is currently in a state of dynamic fluctuation. Due to new competitive pressures, food safety issues, and changing customer demographics and buying preferences, Millennials are changing the way they purchase and consume food.

Online shopping is also changing grocery retailing, and the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods brought massive new competitive models into play. Naturally, this kind of increased competition among grocery retailers and food suppliers causes changes in business processes.

Zest Labs_logo-1Zest Labs, a post-harvest agtech company with proven solutions for shelf life and freshness management, is one company responding to these industry changes. For instance, the company utilizes advanced software to reduce food waste in the supply chain by 50 percent or more. As its solution reduces waste and improves margins, the company believes it is well positioned to have a significant, positive impact.

No Wasted Opportunities

Food is something eminently relatable. Who doesn’t know what it’s like to buy produce, such as a clamshell of strawberries, take it home, and be disappointed when it spoils the next day?

This happens when an item runs out of shelf life; it spoils prematurely. Zest Labs prevents this by providing insights about the actual freshness of products.

“Food waste no longer needs to be a cost of doing business,” says Kevin Payne, vice-president of marketing at Zest Labs. “We can reduce food waste by more than half with advanced technologies and new approaches to solving food waste. This helps us feed more people and improve environmental sustainability.”

As Zest Labs illustrates, new software and hardware solutions can truly improve business practices and the products offered to customers. Depending on whom you ask, digital transformation can provide some of the following benefits:

  • Improved supply chain visibility and traceability
  • Reduced food waste and costs and increased profitability
  • Enhanced food safety capabilities

At retail outlets, large percentages of fresh fruit is wasted. Most other industries would not tolerate this level of waste, yet this food waste problem persists, filling landfills, creating dissatisfied customers, and negatively impacting profit margins across the fresh food supply chain. With effective execution of digital transformation, however, these problems can be solved.

Another way to test if digital transformation data could benefit your cause is if that data would make it easier to record progress. Most companies have established patterns and cycles that, when everything goes right, work perfectly, but what happens when setbacks arise? Digital insights can reveal pain points so you can anticipate problems and situations can improve over time. Using the strategy put in place by Zest Labs, evaluate your goals to see if a similar approach would be applicable and beneficial to your business model.

Zest Labs recently won a Bronze Stevie Award in the Company/Organization Categories for Innovation of the Year - Business Product Industries in The 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Tags: The American Business Awards, innovation awards

Could Clinical Trials Be the Next Frontier for Telemedicine?

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 @ 12:53 PM

With health care expenditures in the United States totaling $3.5 trillion, or nearly $11,000 per person, telemedicine continues to be a source of hope for the industry. By enabling physicians to examine patients remotely, virtual medicine platforms are increasingly viewed by practitioners and insurers as a way to bend the cost curve, and according to Global Market Insights, the telemedicine market isn’t going anywhere. Rather, it’s expected to reach $130.5 billion by 2025.


Some are currently seeing the same potential when it comes to remote clinical trials. A 2018 study by Johns Hopkins University found the average cost of a new drug trial was $19 million but could be many times higher for certain medicines. Lessening the need for in-person follow-ups could help reduce those outlays.

Electronically assisted trials have another potential upside too. They make it more likely for patients to stay in the program, thus reducing the time needed to evaluate new drugs. Additionally, participants don’t have to travel as often, they can receive reminders about when to take medications, and they can get instant support if they suffer adverse effects.

VirTrial_logoOne of the companies betting on this new approach is Scottsdale, Arizona, United States–based VirTrial. In 2018, the firm introduced a platform that allows for audio and video calls between the research team—comprised of clinical research coordinators (CRCs), principal investigators (PIs), and physicians—and the trial participants. The program also supports e-mail and text messaging, enabling the CRCs to send reminders about drug usage, as well as supporting materials.

The idea came to VirTrial CEO Mark Hanley when he was serving on the board of a telehealth company and realized the same technology could be tweaked to support the clinical trial process. 

“The clinical research industry is in a state of growth and evolution,” says Hanley. “Most research professionals agree the recruitment and engagement process needs to change in order to increase the percentage of successful trial outcomes and to speed the introduction of new medications to market.”

The pioneering patient management program of VirTrial is already garnering a lot of attention, both inside and outside the pharmaceutical industry. It recently snagged three Gold Stevie® Awards in the Health & Pharmaceuticals category (Service, Cloud Application/Service, and Healthcare Technology Solution). In what turned out to be a busy night at the 17th Annual American Business Awards®, the company also took home the People’s Choice Stevie® Award for Health & Pharmaceuticals.

The End of Inpatient Visits?

For Hanley, virtual platforms allow research sites to offer better patient engagement and higher retention rates throughout the clinical trial.

“Continual in-person visits to a research site can be difficult for patients, and those patients often can’t continue through the course of an entire trial because of the commitment required,” he says. “By offering virtual trials and enabling patients to comply with the required schedule via video from their homes or workplaces, it makes it much easier for them to complete the trial, thus reducing delays in the study.”

Unlike some remote medicine platforms that have entered the market, however, VirTrial doesn’t see remote capabilities as completely replacing in-person visits. Hanley says his company’s goal is to handle about 25 percent to 40 percent of visits, with the rest being performed face to face at clinical research sites.

“Having firsthand experience with more than ten thousand trials, the management team at VirTrial strongly believes in the intrinsic value of direct human interaction and advocates that in-person visits are necessary in certain cases,” says Hanley.

The company asserts that, practically speaking, less than 1 percent of trials could be done exclusively through virtual follow-ups. Therefore, VirTrial is positioning itself as a more realistic solution when it comes to operating a large-scale clinical trial.

Whether the pharmaceutical industry embraces this hybrid model is only one of the company’s hurdles going forward, though. VirTrial is also trying to stay ahead of the curve from a technological standpoint so research organizations can see the value of its solution over that of competitors.

VirTrial is currently working to develop functionality into its platform that allows for integration with Fitbit bands, Apple Watches, and other smart devices that can track health-related information, such as sleep patterns and cardiac function. No matter how much data those wearables can capture, though, Hanley sees them as supporting, rather than replacing, in-person visits.

“The evolution of clinical trials must incorporate technology to reduce patient burden and to increase site efficiencies, and it must also continue to leverage the value of direct human-to-human connections,” he says.

VirTrial recently won three Gold Stevie Awards in the New Product & Service Categories—one for Health & Pharmaceuticals - Service; one for Cloud Application/Service - Business Technology; and one for Healthcare Technology Solution - Business Technology—in The 17th annual American Business Awards®. They also won a People's Choice Stevie Award for Favorite New Products for Healthcare or Pharmaceutical Product or Service.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

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Tags: The American Business Awards, People’s Choice Stevie® Awards, health awards

Amid Shrinking Tech Labor Pool, Recruiters Lean on Big Data

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 @ 09:13 AM

Steady job gains and a slowly declining unemployment rate are good news for American workers across a range of industries. However, for employers—especially those trying to fill positions in high-demand fields—the shrinking labor pool is making it tougher than ever to find qualified candidates.

Tech companies, in particular, are feeling the talent crunch. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for information-based jobs hit a paltry 2.7 percent in June, compared to 3.8 percent for the entire economy.


What happens when tech companies try to expand their workforces when most professionals are already employed? Often, recruiters turn to one of the newer tools in the field of talent acquisition: big data.

With most prospects already placed in jobs, headhunters are increasingly turning their attention to passive candidates—those who aren’t necessarily looking for new gigs. After a decade-long economic expansion, many job listings are no longer generating thick stacks of résumés.

For a lot of tech recruiters, the solution is to scour everything from social media platforms to software development sites looking for individuals with the right skill sets. According to one industry survey, more than 40 percent of companies are now using big data to identify candidates. Some are even going a step further, using the predictive capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to screen for new prospects in far less time than a human could.

Are Human Recruiters Here to Stay?

That shift, however, begs a question. Will technology replace the human component when it comes to looking for talent in high-demand fields? While some recruiters see AI as a threat, the majority view big data and AI as tools that assist rather than replace recruiters. For example, a survey last year by the website Dice found 55 percent of recruiters believe automating more time-consuming tasks is to their benefit.

Among the firms espousing this hybrid approach is New York City, New York, U.S.–based Andiamo, which provides technology and sales staffing to companies in the United States and Canada. Alongside its recruitment team, the company employs a group of data analysts to mine vast amounts of data from sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, and Stack Overflow to understand the talent pool and to reach out to the professionals who represent the best fit for its clients.

Andiamo logoWith a staff of 70, Andiamo helps fill contract and permanent job openings for developers, engineers, designers, architects, and project managers with experience working on innovative technologies. Andiamo won a Gold StevieⓇ Award for Best House Organ (for a General Audience) at The 2019 American Business Awards®.

By using software to sort through vast amounts of data at the front end of the candidate search, Andiamo claims it’s able to provide clients—including big names like Amazon, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, TripAdvisor, and Mastercard—with the top 2 percent of the available candidates. By using research and analytics, it’s able to speed up the recruitment process as well; Andiamo notes its average submission-to-hire time frame is only 14 days.

Technology has its limitations, though. Steps like understanding the client’s needs and vetting candidates to see why they want a new job remain vital components in the process—and they're the ones that still require a human element. Andiamo believes its ability to use the best of both worlds will only help expand its market share as recruiters jostle for tech clients.

“As the tech market grows, recruiting agencies constantly battle for limited space and attention among top firms and start-ups,” says Brian Schuppel, the company’s head of marketing. “In order to stay ahead of the curve, it’s up to us to continue to deliver a rock-star product along with intellectual, statistical content that is relevant, useful, and digestible.”

With the economy continuing to add jobs, Schuppel sees the competition for talent getting even hotter in the near future.

“In the next few years, we expect the tech market to continue to be aggressively competitive,” he says. “We expect top tech firms and start-ups to keep trying to attract and retain the nation’s most elite technologists and the most sought-after tech stacks to overcome their rivals and to lead the market.”

Andiamo recently won two Gold Stevie Awards in the Publication awards category—one for the Best House Organ and one for Best White Paper or Research Report in the Business Services industry—in The 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

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Tags: The American Business Awards, publication awards

Tech Incubator Helps Start-Ups Plug in to the Asian Market

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Oct 09, 2019 @ 10:29 AM

Walk through virtually any major city in the United States, and you’ll likely find coworking spaces. In these environments, budding entrepreneurs are not only able to work but to bounce their ideas off like-minded professionals.

When young business leaders enter any of eight U.S.-based OnePiece Work locations, however, they find more than just physical spaces for collaboration. They also get access to an array of resources that help them plug in to some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies.

OnePiece Work-1At OnePiece, members attend speaking events with global business leaders, as well as tap in to a network of partner companies in Asia and Europe, getting help with everything from business development and market research to recruiting and product localization.

“We’re a truly cross-border coworking platform, and we held over 100 events last year with lots of investors, Fortune 500 companies, academic leaders, and entrepreneurs from across the globe,” says Yue Xiong, the marketing director at OnePiece.

OnePiece_logoLaunched in 2017, OnePiece has hosted more than 200 multicultural events with over 30,000 international visitors, including representatives from giants like Alibaba, Mitsubishi, Seiko, Cheetah Mobile, and Samsung. It has also brought in several high-profile leaders in the public sector, such as Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of Osaka, Japan, and representatives from the United Nations.

“Our mission is to provide the best support to the next generation of start-ups with our cross-border advantages,” says Xiong.

“We Accept and Respect Differences”

In 2016, Vickey Li, a young commercial real estate developer, opened the first OnePiece Work location in San Jose, California, United States. The space was intended as a boutique coworking area, and the hope was to provide a friendly environment to business customers.

However, when Li met Wei Guo, a Forbes 30 under 30 investor who has supported more than 300 companies to date, the venture took a sharper focus on the technology industry. The partners soon moved OnePiece headquarters to the heart of the tech world, San Francisco, California, United States.

In just three years, OnePiece, the 2019 Gold StevieⓇ Award winner for “Entrepreneur of the Year” in the real estate category, expanded into seven more tech markets on the U.S. Pacific Coast. It plans to open its first Chinese-based workspace in Shenzhen. Those locations house nearly 250 companies from over 30 industries, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, consumer goods, fintech, education, social networking, and gaming.

From the beginning, the OnePiece founders—each backed by significant international business experience—made international growth a key point of differentiation from other tech incubators.

“We trust our members’ crazy ideas and help them expand to broader markets,” Xiong says.

Given the potential sales opportunities in Asia, it’s not hard to see the appeal. Despite a slowdown in recent years, China’s economy, for example, continues to grow at a more than 6 percent clip. For a country with nearly 1.4 billion people, that means a lot more consumers will see their spending power grow in the decades ahead.

Xiong says the emphasis on global business opportunities also ensures there’s a lively exchange of viewpoints and experiences, which brings value to young companies.

“We accept and respect differences,” adds Xiong, “and because of these differences, we’ve built a cross-border community that helps us stand out.”

OnePiece Work recently won two Stevie Awards—a Gold Stevie in the Entrepreneur of the Year category in the Real Estate industry and a Bronze Stevie in the Startup of the Year in the Business Services industry—in the 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Tags: The American Business Awards, technology innovations

Even Future-Oriented Technology Still Depends on the Right Team

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Oct 02, 2019 @ 09:31 AM

As the world becomes more reliant on real-time computing, businesses are realizing it’s more imperative than ever to have high-quality performance and near-zero latency. To that end, according to Gartner, Inc., by 2022, it’s projected about 50 percent of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside of traditional data centers or the cloud, which is up from less than 10 percent in 2018.

QOS Networks team_cover

QOS Networks is one company actively working toward that projection. The company’s mission is to architect strategic network solutions that enable distributed enterprises to connect in an expanding world, allowing clients to achieve improved experiences.

“We strive to deliver best-in-breed solutions mixed with fanatical customer support,” says Stefanie Whittington, the vice president of marketing.

Pairing Talent with Technology

QOS Networks_logoQOS has a team of passionate individuals who always aim to innovate and to identify the best fit for each customer in order to create pathways and products that revolutionize the way people do business.

“We do what we do because, at the end of the day, when a customer sees answers to problems, it's a gratifying experience,” says Whittington.

According to Whittington, even though the company deals in a cutting-edge industry, traditional values are still key, and it’s the people of the QOS team that comprise the heart of the business.

“Culture and people definitely top the list. Without spending time and effort to drive the company culture toward something inclusive, inspiring, and satisfying, our customers would never feel the reciprocal dedication. Our team is the core of the business, and when it comes to people, it's immeasurably important to strive for the best.”

The company ensures these cultural values are ingrained from the day a new employee steps foot in the office.

New Possibilities, New Challenges

According to many industry experts, 5G connectivity is going to significantly change the way business is done, and some service providers are already beginning to implement the technology, even though it’s still only trickling into the market. These new advances in enterprise and customer technologies require careful implementation into a constantly evolving world, which requires a team that has its eye on the bigger picture.

“The advancement of 5G in the market is a fun development to watch,” says Whittington. “As this new wave of connectivity comes into the marketplace, it has reaching implications for both consumers and businesses.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another potential game changer—and not only for problem management or tactical edge management. Whittington believes AI is going to become an increasingly significant force as technology in this field advances.

QOS aims to analyze the data from these new advances, pare it down, and use it to deliver a better client experience. How long until this process is completely viable, though? While an educated guess can be made, one thing remains clear: QOS wants to get more practical use out of emerging technologies so they can truly benefit the user, but this can only happen when the right team approaches the problem with the right values.

Prioritizing everything from weekly all-hands meetings in order to share successes and goals to company inclusion events, such as lunch clubs and news briefs, it’s clear the entire business operates with a deliberate focus on its people.

QOS Networks recently won a Bronze Stevie Award in the Fastest Growing Company of the Year category in the industry of Telecommunications at the 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Tags: The American Business Awards, technology innovations, telecommunications

Author of Stevie-winning Book: How to Develop Yourself as a Conscious Leader

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 @ 09:18 AM

In August of 2019, the CEOs of America’s largest companies gathered for the “Business Roundtable”, an association whose elite membership is comprised of the CEOs of the largest corporations in the U.S. This year, the all-powerful and influential group issued a pronouncement that the New York Times, on its front page, described as a major “philosophical shift.” Our largest companies would no longer focus exclusively on pleasing their shareholders; instead they would move to include caring about their people: employees, customers and “society” itself. 


While this may have been news to many of us, it was another day at the office for Jeffrey Deckman, founder of Capability Accelerators, a New England-based leadership consultancy, who has been at the forefront of the movement to redefine how leaders lead for 15 years. Jeffrey Deckman pulled from more than 40 years of leadership experience and put it all down in a groundbreaking book,Developing the Conscious Leadership Mindset for the 21st Century,” published in March of 2019. The book was honored with Gold in the 2019 American Business Awards® and Silver in the 2019 International Business Awards® for Best Business E-Book and Best Business Book, respectively. 

A successful serial entrepreneur who launched two multi-million-dollar companies, Deckman exited that line of work in 2005 with a mission to change the way companies treat their employees and those with whom they do business. “I went from the front lines to the front office,” says Deckman. “I have done everything from customer service calls to eventually running board meetings. As a result, I saw the powerful relationship between leaders, employee engagement and ROI at every level of organizations. Engagement plunges when ‘power and control’ is in play in the C-suite; replace it with ‘authenticity, integrity and respect,’ and engagement skyrockets with profits following suit.”

This revolutionary book changes the paradigm for modern leadership as Deckman leads those who occupy C-suites and other senior positions on a subtle and highly effective journey of personal and professional transformation; it also gives leaders the tools they need to lead their teams in a similar transformation.

Deckman’s book breaks with the norm of business books in other ways as well. The book is intentionally an easy-to-read and follow – and even fun - workbook, all the better to engage an audience known to resist training. As Deckman explains: “Many leaders don’t want to admit, publicly at least, that they need training even though the truth is that most business leaders have not been trained in how to manage the complex tribal dynamics, psychological drivers and cultural influences that are the engines that drive profits in the Knowledge Economy. We – unfairly – expect them to learn all of this on their own, which few, in my experience, can.”

Deckman’s book transforms leaders as they absorb – contemplate, really – each of its powerful 52 “sections”. “Talking and telling” is replaced by “connecting and listening” (the average leader listens for seven seconds before interrupting; listening significantly improves employee engagement);“managing org charts” is replaced by “engaging and empowering tribes”; “command and control” is replaced by “communication, collaboration and facilitation"; and “getting others to do more” is replaced by “creating a supportive environment in which employees learn how to do more.”

leadership_mindset_ebook_badge-1The physical design of the book also stands out. It is a beautiful book to both look at and to hold, all the better for this discriminating audience. It also gives leaders the option of a shorter 26-week program as many leaders are busy as well as to turn either length program into a training program for their teams in order to maximize the book’s impact. As one Stevie judge aptly commented: “What a clever book. The 26-week or 52-week plan encourages the reader to incorporate and apply the ‘work’ set out in the readings.”

Since publication, top leadership consultants have posted five-star Amazon reviews pushing the book to #1 in Occupational/Organizational Psychology. Fast Company and CEO Blog Nation featured Deckman as have many leadership podcasts. Deckman’s fourth Conscious Leadership Conference is nearly sold out. Since publication, the author has also become a popular lecturer on leadership at the University of Rhode Island.

A stage 4 cancer survivor given a clean bill of health in 2019, Deckman knows that “the need for change is urgent and the time for change is now.”

As the Stevie judges recognized, this book is an agent for that change.

For more information, please visit To receive a chapter of this book as special gift to Stevie blog readers, please email

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Tags: The American Business Awards, best business book

How Institutional Funds Are Changing the Real Estate Industry

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Aug 28, 2019 @ 01:25 PM

The real estate market is a complicated and multifaceted entity that undergoes many swings and fluctuations. One new kind of investment system—the institutional fund—is the latest change to shake up how the industry operates.


What Are Institutional Funds?

An institutional fund is a type of mutual fund, and it’s marked by two characteristics: low fees but an incredibly high minimum investment. Because of this second factor, an institutional fund is usually not feasibly available to individual investors, unless that investor has an extremely high net worth. Rather, these funds typically market themselves to entities like pension funds, hedge funds, large nonprofits, or other groups with substantial amounts of capital to invest. Using that capital, these groups are buying up foreclosed or distressed homes, refurbishing them, and reintroducing them on the rental market.

Institutional Funds and the Housing Market Collapse

With the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent housing market crash, homes were foreclosing at an unprecedented rate. In the wake of this event, the market saw the emergence of this new kind of real estate investor: institutional firms that possessed the foresight and means to secure tens of thousands of these properties when they were severely undervalued.

Many such institutional firms were in it for the short-term rewards, simply refurbishing the homes and selling them once property values recovered. However, more than 10 years later, some of the biggest players in this landscape are clearly in it for the long term. These firms continue to expand their base of homes for refurbishment and subsequent rental.

RESICAP_silver-1RESICAP, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, is just one example of the kind of company that has emerged in tandem with these institutional funds and institutional investors.

“We are the leading vertically integrated solution for institutional owners of single-family residential assets in the United States,” says Greg Higgins, senior marketing manager of RESICAP. “For these institutional owners, we facilitate and service the entire life cycle, from valuation to renovation to property management to disposition.”

After the 2008 crash specifically, RESICAP capitalized by looking beyond its own borders.

“We were aware of international interest in the U.S. market that resulted from the 2008 real estate crash. Domestic investor interest in the U.S. single-family residence space was nonexistent at the time, so we began to look internationally,” says Higgins. “We sought investors who could take advantage of the deflated value of the U.S. dollar by investing in U.S. real estate while also participating in the rebound of the asset class.”

The Future of Institutional Funds Continues to Look Bright

Because institutional funds tend to surge and to flourish when the market is inundated with renters, market crashes have historically been times of growth for these funds. Just as with the 2008 crash, any prolonged and significant economic downturn hinders those looking to buy homes for the first time, and it jeopardizes the homes of those who are already locked into mortgages—both of which boost the rental market.

Foreclosures and poor economic performance, however, are no longer the most significant predictors of the success of institutional funds. In today’s climate, millennials, many of whom are saddled with student debt, are waiting longer to buy homes, or they are deciding to forego the process altogether. Many young adults view renting in a much more positive light than previous generations and have little interest in building up the necessary (and significant) down payment or taking on the ongoing expense of home ownership. If these trends continue in the demographic that would typically be buying their first homes and entering the real estate market, institutional funds only look to capitalize further on their emerging prominence.

The recent award recognition RESICAP earned is indicative of this trend. RESICAP took home the Gold Stevie® Award for Company of the Year in the Real Estate category, as well as another Gold Stevie Award for Fastest Growing Company of the Year in The 2019 American Business Awards.

“Few people have heard of us, yet we were the fastest-growing company in Georgia [United States] in 2018,” says Higgins. “Currently institutional funds only represent about two percent of the single-family real estate market, so there is tremendous potential and opportunity for them and, therefore, us as their partner. We have a unique business model in a relatively new industry—institutional-level, single-family home servicing—and we look to capitalize on that in order to continue our growth.”

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.


Tags: The American Business Awards, company of the year, real estate awards

In a Digital World, Marketing Agencies Move Closer to Their Communities

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 @ 01:25 PM

Brands, businesses, and consumers are all becoming increasingly distrustful of big advertising agencies, and with so many scandals, data leaks, and privacy violations, it doesn't really come as a surprise. What’s interesting, though, is how that distrust is pushing even the biggest brands to work with smaller agencies. Additionally, it puts the pressure on all agencies to maintain honest work practices and complete transparency.

Hawke Media, a full-service marketing agency, prefers off-line opportunities to settle these potential client concerns, and they believe they know how this new need for transparency will push their industry.

hawke media_logo-1

In-Person Networking Still Matters

Hawke Media is set up to be more than just a marketing agency; the company also wants face-to-face interaction with its community. To that end, they expanded beyond Los Angeles, California, United States, to host a series of events that focus on talent, resources, and marketing.

"After seeing exponential growth for the past five years, we decided it was time for Hawke Media to spread its wings and to expand, and what better place to start that expansion than New York City?" says Erik Huberman, CEO and founder of Hawke Media. "We're incredibly excited to make our mark on the New York scene, and we look forward to becoming a part of the East Coast e-commerce community."

Hawke Media builds physical communities around its business. If your organization is looking to gather feedback and ideas in your community, Huberman has four tips for interested parties:

  1. 9f4f9f23-b4ca-432c-8932-09d570a65640-photo_upload-erik-huberman-headshotValuable Information. Follow up with like-minded professionals you meet along the way to continuously incorporate feedback.
  2. User-Generated Content. Attendees who share photos of your events can help boost your exposure.
  3. Networking. Stay involved with your community through old-fashioned networking events.
  4. Awareness, Nurture, and Trust. Trust is crucial in a consumer-brand relationship. Always uphold clear lines of communication in all interactions with your clients.

These strategies create a track record of your events and provide more to future clients who are tired of just receiving emails and attending webinars.

Despite their passion for face-to-face networking, Hawke Media understands data-driven marketing solutions need to back up any style of networking.

“Hawke Media was founded on the idea that every modern business needs a CMO-level expert to lead digital marketing efforts,” says Huberman. “By shifting the agency paradigm and linking its success to its clients', Hawke Media is changing the marketing game and allowing brands of all sizes, revenue models, and industries to afford customized, data-driven marketing solutions.”

Another contributing component to its success is that Hawke Media is made of entrepreneurs. The company is full of hungry go-getters who understand the importance of dreams. Hawke Media enables entrepreneurs at any stage of the journey to create thriving, growing, successful businesses.

Because the company is siloed, Hawke Media employees can truly focus on craft rather than having to be jacks-of-all-trades. This unique business model might just be the future of outsourced marketing.

Hawke Media earned a Gold Stevie® Award in the category of Company of the Year in the 2017 American Business Awards. Kate Aurell, Vice President of Operations at Hawke Media, and Melissa Portillo, Director of Creative Development, each took home a Bronze Stevie® Award for Female Executive of the Year in the Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations category of the 2018 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.


Tags: The American Business Awards, company of the year, Marketing

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