Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog

News & Resources the do more blog​​

  • 10/8/2018 Are You Micromanaging Your Way to Higher Turnover?

    Reposted from the Raffa Financial Services, Inc. Business Blog If you’re hiring the wrong people, you may find it necessary to micromanage their every move. If you’re hiring the right people and still trying to micromanage their every move, the next one they make could be to a different organization.

    Reposted from the Raffa Financial Services, Inc. Business Blog

    If you’re hiring the wrong people, you may find it necessary to micromanage their every move. If you’re hiring the right people and still trying to micromanage their every move, the next one they make could be to a different organization.

    Let your leaders lead
    If the leadership in your organization truly wants to manage every tiny task and detail, then you should only hire “yes” people— employees who are happy doing only what they’re told and not thinking about it too much. These folks will gladly trade hours for a paycheck and meet the minimum expectations of the job, and they can generally tolerate constantly being told what to do and how to do it.

    A leader who doesn’t want to deal with this level of detail and would rather take on higher level issues and responsibilities, needs to hire independent thinkers— people who like to do research, come up with new ideas, and then put them into practice. But this strategy comes with a warning:

    If you hire independent thinkers and enthusiastic doers and then prevent them from taking initiative, you’re running the very immediate risk of them leaving.

    Let your employees take ownership
    If you’re hiring additional people, it’s probably because you need more thinkers and doers in your organization.

    In this case, you should be hiring competent people you can trust to do their jobs exceptionally well. They should bring capabilities that compliment currently existing skills and knowledge in the company, and they should be looked upon with great enthusiasm for the fresh perspective they bring and their willingness to jump in and do these new jobs with a fiery passion.

    As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set the vision and ensure the company stays on target. To accomplish your goals, you’ll need to hire competent people who believe in your company and your mission. But it doesn’t end there.

    You must also allow your team to take ownership of their new roles and let them help you determine the best path for turning your vision into a reality. 

    When you hire people to manage specific areas of your organization, you should be looking at them as content-area experts who can help you achieve company goals bigger, better, and faster. If you’re not getting that expert–level advice and instead find yourself micromanaging them and their activities, then you need to go back and take the micromanagement test:

    Did you hire the wrong people? Or are you micromanaging the right people to death?

    Don’t lose your best employees!
    You hired each of these individuals for a reason. Or lots of reasons! Once they’re onboard, you need to be able to trust and rely on your team to help create a dynamic company that everyone is excited to be part of. If you’re having trouble doing that, it’s time for a little self-reflection.

    Re-evaluate your organizational goals and strategies and be honest about your management style. Is it serving your purpose or holding you back? Are you drawing great employees to you or inspiring them to look elsewhere?

    Hire talented people and then let them do what they do best. Help make your business better.

    At Raffa Financial, we help clients identify organizational challenges, create big picture strategies, and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to custom retirement plans to risk management services, we’ve got you covered.

  • 10/1/2018 Consumer Spending Up and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 29nd All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. Stocks fell over the week on increasing concerns about protectionist trade policies.  The S&P 500 dropped 0.5% and the Dow eased 1.1%.  Internationally, Europe edged […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 29nd

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    Stocks fell over the week on increasing concerns about protectionist trade policies.  The S&P 500 dropped 0.5% and the Dow eased 1.1%.  Internationally, Europe edged down 0.3%, but Japan rose 1.0%.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond was flat for the week, staying at 3.06%.  Oil rose 3.4% to finish the month at $73.25 a barrel.  Global oil prices reached a four year high on concerns that sanctions against Iran and Venezuela production problems will drive supply shortages. Article

    Home price gains eased for the fourth straight month in July according to the S&P Case Shiller price index with prices up 6% over the past year compared to 6.2% in June.

    Consumer confidence reached the highest level in 18 years in September.

    The Trump administration’s top trade negotiator warned Canada could be excluded from a trade agreement with Mexico due to lack of progress.

    The Fed made the widely expected move of increasing the Fed Funds rate a quarter percentage point to a range of 2%-2.25%.  They said they expected to raise its rate a quarter percent one more time this year and then a total of 1% over 2019. Article

    Consumer spending rose 0.3% in August from July.  It was the smallest gain since February.

    Concerns about Italy’s rising budget deficit weighed on European stocks as investors believe the current position to be unsustainable.

    Michael Kors bought Versace for $2.1 billion. Article

    Barrick Gold agreed to purchase Randgold Resources for $6 billion to solidify its place as the world’s largest gold miner.

    Sirius agreed to buy Pandora for $3 billion.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.

  • 9/24/2018 New Tariffs, Home Sales Fall and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 21st All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US stocks reached new all-time highs over the week on optimism about trade.  The S&P 500 rose 0.8% and the Dow climbed 2.3% for the […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 21st

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US stocks reached new all-time highs over the week on optimism about trade.  The S&P 500 rose 0.8% and the Dow climbed 2.3% for the week.  Internationally, Europe surged 1.7% and Japan jumped 3.4% for the week. The 10-year Treasury yield gained for the fourth straight week ending at 3.06%.

    The Trump administration announced new 10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that would take effect next week. With this new round combined with previous tariffs assed the administration would have tariffs on nearly half of the $500 billion in goods the US imports every year.

    In response to the US’s tariff announcement China said it plans to new tariffs on $60 billion of US goods.

    US home sales fell 1.5% in August for the sixth straight month of declines.

    UK and EU negations are at an impasse on Brexit negotiations with 6 months until the deadline.

    China pulled out of trade talks with the US that were planned for the coming days.

    Tesla announced the Justice Dept. opened an investigation into the car maker after Elon Musk’s tweets about having financing secured to go private.

    S&P 500 companies are expected to show a 19% increase in profits from a year earlier in the third quarter.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.

  • 9/18/2018 Ep. 30 – Raffa Nonprofit Sector Tax Update: Finally! Proposed Guidance from the IRS on TCJA

    Join nonprofit tax experts Aaron Fox and Frank Smith as they walk through the recent release of proposed guidance 2018-67 and discuss implications to UBI calculations across the sector.

    Join nonprofit tax experts Aaron Fox and Frank Smith as they walk through the recent release of proposed guidance 2018-67 and discuss implications to UBI calculations across the sector.

    Aaron Fox, Senior Manager

    Frank Smith, Partner

     

     

     

     

     

    Check out the first and second installments of the Raffa Nonprofit Sector Tax Update!

    Tax Reform Update for Nonprofits – January 31, 2018

    Nonprofit Sector Tax Update – August 28, 2018

    Listen Now

  • 9/17/2018 Tired of Being Trapped in Meetings? Here’s How to Make Them Worthwhile

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/17/2018 Raise your hand if you love random meetings!

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/17/2018

    Raise your hand if you love random meetings!

    Okay, then, raise your hand if you love weekly team meetings. Quarterly check-in meetings? Project review meetings? Obligatory mystery meetings?

    If you’re like most people, you don’t get excited about seeing your calendar fill up with hours and hours of meetings. And you’re probably frustrated with the lack of preparation, organization, progress, and productivity that goes into them.

    Not all meetings are bad

    But a lot of meetings are. Which is unfortunate, because it really doesn’t take much effort to create a good one.

    There are dozens of ways to improve meetings, but let’s start with three key things you can start doing right now to make your meetings more productive and less painful.

    1.) Meet because you need to, not because it’s time

    Just because there is a meeting on the schedule doesn’t mean it needs to happen.

    Don’t waste everyone’s time by holding meetings out of habit or obligation, and never call a meeting that doesn’t have a defined purpose or outcome. Having a meeting simply because it’s the second Friday of the month isn’t just inefficient and unproductive. It’s annoying.

    When to have a meeting:

    • Your team is working collectively to achieve a specific, defined objective
    • There are important updates to communicate, and it can’t easily be done via email
    • The meeting content is educational and will better prepare each attendee to be more successful in his/her role

    When not to have a meeting:

    • It’s Tuesday, and you always meet on Tuesdays
    • You like getting everyone together just to catch up
    • Someone brought doughnuts

    If you’re going to take your people away from their desks and into a conference room, don’t pull a Michael Scott. You’ve got to make it count.

    • Make sure there are worthy objectives to achieve by the end of the meeting.
    • Communicate those objectives when scheduling your meeting and remind everyone of your purpose when the meeting starts.
    • Schedule appropriate blocks of time based on the objectives at hand, and end the meeting early if you’ve achieved them.

    Tip: Meetings don’t automatically need default to an hour. If you’ve got 20 minutes of material to cover, schedule 20 minutes. 

    2.) Give your meeting the structure it deserves

    Never ask people to come to a meeting without explaining in reasonable detail what will happen when they get there.

    Not only does this force the facilitator to prepare beforehand, it lets each attendee know what they need to do to contribute and benefit from the meeting. Your agenda doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a few bullet points. It does, however, need to be relevant.

    Tip: Going around the room and letting everyone talk for 5 or 10 minutes is NOT an agenda. If you like these kinds of meetings, consider starting a book club or joining a support group.

    3.) Hold your attendees (and yourself) accountable

    Get confirmation on who is coming to the meeting before it happens. Everyone on the invite list should be critical to the objectives. If one key person is missing, your meeting could be a total waste of time. If you know that essential participants won’t be there, you can cancel the meeting ahead of time and spare everyone the pain.

    You should also hold people at the end of your meeting. Before everyone gets up and walks out the door, get verbal confirmation from each attendee objectives were met. Make sure everyone understands and commits to following up with any required tasks and takeaways.

    Tip: Meeting attendees aren’t there to be entertained. They are there to participate and contribute. Ask them if they got what they expected out of the meeting, and confirm what they will do as a result.

    Make the most of your time together

    If you’re fuming over the horrible meetings you have to attend on a regular basis, you may need to take a look in the mirror.

    • Are you showing up unprepared?
    • Scheduling meetings just because?
    • Failing to provide clear schedules and agendas?
    • Taking more time than you need?

    If so, your colleagues, prospects, and clients could be feeling the same way about the meetings you’re having with them.

    Following these three simple guidelines will significantly improve your workplace meeting attitudes, experiences, and outcomes. And who doesn’t want a little bit of that?

    Tired of working with insurance salespeople who only think one year at a time? Wonder what it would be like to have a broker who looks beyond your annual policy? At Raffa Financial, we’ll provide a corporate employee benefits strategy to help you achieve your long-term your vision. Get in touch to find out how.

     

  • 9/17/2018 Retail Sales Eased and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 15th All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. Global stocks gained over the week on easing trade war fears and central bank moves.  The S&P 500 was up 1.2% and the Dow rose […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 15th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    Global stocks gained over the week on easing trade war fears and central bank moves.  The S&P 500 was up 1.2% and the Dow rose 0.9% for the week.  Internationally, Japan soared gaining 3.5% and Europe climbed 1.1% for the week.  The 10-year Treasury yield rose over the week ending at 2.99%. Article 

    The US opened up the possibility to another round of trade talks with China to possibly avoid the US applying tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese exports.

    The number of available jobs in the US outpaced the number of job seekers by over 650,000 in July.

    The producer price index unexpectedly declined in August and the CPI rose 0.2% in August, below expectations.

    The ECB lowered its projects for growth, but reaffirmed its commitment to move away from easy money policies.  They expect to wind down it bond purchase program by year end and won’t look to raise interest rates until after the summer of 2019.  Article

    The Bank of England voted to hold its benchmark interest rate at 0.75%.

    Turkey’s central bank sharply increased interest rates from 17.75% to 24% to combat its falling currency.

    Retail sales eased in August after a significant jump in July.

    Russia’s central bank increased its benchmark interest rate to 7.5% to fight inflation and volatility of the ruble.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.
  • 9/13/2018 Yes, Social Media Can Cost You Your Job.

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/13/2018 In the grand scheme of life, social media is a relatively new phenomenon. Sure, we used to write on cave walls, but let’s face it, those things rarely went viral. And there were no HR departments anywhere in sight.

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/13/2018

    In the grand scheme of life, social media is a relatively new phenomenon. Sure, we used to write on cave walls, but let’s face it, those things rarely went viral. And there were no HR departments anywhere in sight.

    Today, we have this extremely powerful communication tool (or weapon) at our fingertips, but some of us are using it with a caveman mentality. And our employers are watching.

    But I’m not at work!

    A lot of people think the things they say and do during their spare time can’t possibly affect their job status, but as we’re finding out, this isn’t necessarily the case.

    Even if you’re off the clock, the things you say and do can reflect poorly on you as an individual, and as an employee of a particular organization. And yes, it can result in termination.

    People have been fired for these reasons and more:

    • Bad-mouthing their job, employer, and/or coworkers
    • Lying about being sick or injured
    • Posting confidential customer or company information
    • Documenting inappropriate behavior at work
    • Violating employer policies, on or off the job
    • Making threats or other intimidating comments
    • Expressing views that run contrary to company values and culture

    Some of these people probably just thought they were being funny. Others may have suspected their comments were crossing the line, but thought their privacy settings were locked down tight enough. Still others may have believed that their private social media accounts weren’t fair game for employers.

    But all of these things are up for interpretation.

    What about the first amendment?

    America is a country that believes in free speech. But when our forefathers drafted the first amendment, they were concerned about protecting citizens who disagreed with and/or spoke out against the government— a hallmark of democracy. They weren’t so worried about your “right” to talk trash about your coworkers or company.

    As smart as they were, the founding fathers couldn’t possibly have planned for the scope and magnitude of the platforms we have available to us today. Over the years, the courts have added some specific free speech exceptions for things like incitement, false statements of fact, obscenity, threats of violence, etc.

    So while you may believe you can freely say (or post) whatever you want to, the courts may see things differently.

    Along with a lot of other people

    As we’re also learning, the court of public opinion can be even more brutal.

    There are plenty of stories about people posting things they think are fairly innocuous, only to have an offended coworker print out a copy and take it to HR, who tends to see things quite differently. Making fun of coworkers online? Filming yourself goofing off on company time? Posting video of clients without permission? Not good.

    If you’re post highly controversial views on your social media profile, you’d better prepare for some serious backlash. If your posts include unsavory things like hate speech, racism, and violence, you should also be prepared for what will happen if and when they get back to your employer. Because in all likelihood, they will. And the results may not be pretty.

    The same is true for businesses. If you use your company social media outlets to voice personal or political views that aren’t inclusive or run counter to those you serve, you may live to regret it. One Arizona business decided to shut its doors after the backlash from a politically motivated social media post resulted in extreme negative press, boycotts, and even death threats.

    Which brings us back to that caveman mentality.

    If you’re truly passionate about social justice, does it really make sense to threaten harm to people who don’t share your views? What would your grandmother have to say about that? Or your company? Or your boss?

    Evolution is good

    We all know that humans can easily be killed by bears. That’s why we don’t run up and poke them. But clearly some of us have not been able to anticipate the consequences of bad social media behavior.

    Technology is changing rapidly. And maybe the amygdala part of our brains haven’t been able to keep up. Perhaps that explains why so many people think posting everything they are thinking and doing at the moment is a fine idea. Maybe we haven’t yet figured out the danger lurking behind our screens and keyboards.

    But we’re adaptable creatures. We can learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others. We can train ourselves, our colleagues, and our employees on what is an appropriate use of social media and what isn’t.

    Use your instincts

    If your fingers are hesitating over the keys, or you’re not sure you should hit that post button, that’s a clear warning sign.

    Re-read your comments from your sweet auntie’s point of view. Would she approve of your language and sentiment? What about your mom? Or your children? Would you be ashamed if they read what you’ve written, done what you’re doing, or said what you’re about to say?

    Take a deep breath and edit. Or better yet, delete.

    You’ll never regret not posting that stupid thing that made your sister cry, your high school buddy unfriend you, or your boss tell you to clean out your desk.

    Trust your hesitation. Listen to it. It just might be evolution at work.

     

    If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, Raffa is here for you. Get in touch to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

     

  • 9/10/2018 Frazzled Employees Won’t Get You Where You Want to Go

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/10/2018 You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you expect the same of your employees. But at some point, hard work can become overwork. And overworking can become overwhelming.

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/10/2018

    You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you expect the same of your employees. But at some point, hard work can become overwork. And overworking can become overwhelming.

    If your team is constantly burning the midnight oil, you will eventually start feeling it in your bottom line. And not in the way you might imagine.

    A disruptive mentality

    Perhaps you’ve used words like disruptive, innovative, and revolutionary to describe your company’s product, service, or culture. Many business owners and leaders view these qualities as universally positive. Necessary, even. But from an employee perspective, they can be exhausting.

    How many people genuinely look forward to spending extended work days engulfed in disruption, navigating constant change, or leading a revolution?

    For a great purpose and over short periods of time? Sure! But non-stop every day until forever? Not so much. Of course you want your employees to be excited about and invested in their work. But that doesn’t mean they need to live and breathe it 24 hours a day.

    Your best employees aren’t necessarily the ones hyped up on energy drinks, working back to back shifts, and staying up all night. They may appear to be overachievers but in reality, they could be costing you big time.

    Revolution has a price

    Workplace stress is real. And real expensive.

    When people are overworked and stressed out, they are more likely to develop physical and mental health issues. Many stress-related health problems can take your employees out of the game completely. When they do show up, they’re more likely to be distracted and make mistakes.

    A few quick facts about workplace stress:

    So how do you make sure your employees are working hard but not burning out?

    Look for it

    If you tell yourself everything is fine, that’s exactly what you’ll believe. But as with most problems, recognizing workplace burn out is half the battle.

    Start looking around for subtle signs and symptoms, and check in with your team to assess levels of stress within the organization.

    Evaluate potential causes of burnout, such as:

    • Excessive workloads
    • Outdated technology
    • Poor communication
    • Workplace conflict
    • Unhappy co-workers
    • Toxic clients

    While you’re at it, look for telltale symptoms:

    • Fatigue
    • Accidents and mistakes
    • Missed deadlines, goals, and numbers
    • Employee disengagement and turnover
    • Issues with absenteeism and/or presenteeism
    • Increasing chronic illnesses and accommodation needs

    If you’re not comfortable playing the super sleuth, you can always go directly to the source.

    Conduct an anonymous employee survey to see how company expectations match up with employee expectations. And where they don’t.

    Fix it

    Once you’ve determined you have a problem and identified your causes and symptoms, work quickly to find and implement solutions.

    Ignoring these things might seem easier in the short term, but letting issues simmer under the surface creates a breeding ground for increased tension and potential blow ups. If you really want your staff to achieve balance, you can’t just talk about it. At some point, you need to give them the tools to make it happen.

    Live it

    Start with leading by example. If you tell your employees they should strive for a manageable schedule and a healthy work/life balance, but your leadership team is working 14 hour days and rewarding those who do the same, no one is going to believe you really mean it. Check in with yourself. Have you fallen prey to the 24/7 mentality? Are you feeling worn out,  less productive, and more on edge?

    Stress is stress, no matter who you are and what your title is. Reducing your own stress will naturally reduce the stress of your team. And when your team is healthy and happy, your bottom line will be as well.

    At Raffa, we help clients identify organizational challenges, create big picture strategies, and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to custom retirement plans to risk management services, we’ve got you covered.

     

  • 9/10/2018 US Stock Fell and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 8th All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US Stocks fell over the week on renewed talk of raising tariffs and inflation concerns. The S&P 500 fell 1.0% and the Dow eased 0.2% […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 8th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US Stocks fell over the week on renewed talk of raising tariffs and inflation concerns. The S&P 500 fell 1.0% and the Dow eased 0.2% for the week. Internationally, Japan dropped 2.4% and Europe sank 2.2% for the week. Emerging markets fell into bear market territory over the week. The 10-year Treasury yield gained over the week ending at 2.94%.

    The August jobs report slightly topped expectations with 201,000 jobs added making the monthly average rate for the year 185,000. The unemployment rate remained steady at 3.9%. Wage growth picked up gaining 2.9% from a year earlier. It’s the fastest pace of wage growth since mid-2009.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.
  • 9/6/2018 Remote Working: Is it Good for Employers?

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/6/2018 Work from home options are becoming more and more popular with employees, but are these flexible arrangements any good for employers?

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 9/6/2018

    Work from home options are becoming more and more popular with employees, but are these flexible arrangements any good for employers?

    study from TinyPulse revealed 91% of telecommuters felt more productive working remotely than in the office. With numbers like that, it’s hard not to want to take this idea and run with it.

    But there are some things you’ll want to consider before jumping in.

    The benefits of flexibility

    Recruitment – Today’s employees love being able to make choices about when, where, and how they work. Offering remote work options could give you a serious advantage when it comes to recruiting.

    Being able to accommodate remote employees can also open up your hiring pool significantly. Find a great candidate who isn’t interested in a long commute, relocation, or sticking to a rigid schedule? These things are no longer automatic deal breakers.

    Retention – In addition to feeling more productive, remote workers also reported feeling more valued, having higher levels of job satisfaction, and being more likely to stay with their current employer than their office-working counterparts.

    Productivity – Work from home options allow your employees to be productive without physically being in the office. Major snow storm? Bundle up and work from home. Systems down in the office? Grab your laptop and head to a cafe. Feeling a little under the weather? Employees can log a few hours from home— without sharing germs with the rest of the team.

    Employers with telecommuting programs in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs. Sounds like a winning scenario, right?

    When it’s done right

    Before you decide to kick everyone out of the office tomorrow, it’s important to note that survey responses were different when remote workers were broken out by those who chose to work at home vs. those who were forced to work at home.

    Not surprisingly, employees who chose to telecommute were happier, felt more valued, and were more likely to see themselves staying with the company than those who were mandated to work remotely.

    The lesson here? Today’s job seekers value choice and flexibility, and are taking these things consideration when making career moves and decisions. But choice without structure can be bad for everyone, especially when the rules seem unclear. Or unfair.

    Consistency is key

    If you do plan to offer telecommuting benefits, you’ll want to standardize your program as much as possible. If only a few select groups or individuals are offered work at home benefits, it can quickly cause friction and resentment on the team.

    Which brings up another thing to consider. The TinyPulse research also found that remote employees scored lower than their in-office mates when it came to rating the overall quality of their relationships at work.

    So while it can be difficult for remote teams to feel and stay connected, that doesn’t mean you need to toss your work from home policy plans out the window. Instead, you can look at this challenge as an opportunity to design a healthy, productive workplace environment that address these issues from the inside out. Organizations with high levels of communication, connection, and trust will be well-suited for implementing creative and flexible new policies.

    If you’ve already cultivated a healthy, positive company culture, go ahead! Take that next step forward. And reap the rewards of going remote.

    At Raffa, we work with businesses in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area to implement strategic employee benefits plans designed to position them as coveted employers of choice. Whether you’re looking to build a healthy team, lower employee turnover, or recruit and reward executive talent, we can help. 

  • 9/1/2018 US Corporations Post Gains and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 1st All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US stocks rose over the week reaching new record highs on positive trade developments.  The S&P 500 gained 0.9% and the Dow rose 0.7% for […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through September 1st

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US stocks rose over the week reaching new record highs on positive trade developments.  The S&P 500 gained 0.9% and the Dow rose 0.7% for the week.  Internationally, Japan jumped 1.2%, while Europe eased 0.3% for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up slightly over the week ending at 2.85%.The US and Mexico reached a trade deal in reworking NAFTA, however Canada was not included in the deal.

    The S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index rose 6.2% in June over the trailing year down from the 6.4% annual growth rate in May.

    US 2Q GDP was revised up to 4.2% from 4.1%.

    Household spending rose 0.4% in July, while household income rose 0.3%.

    The Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures price index, rose 0.1% in July from June.  From the prior year it is up 2.3% the largest increase since 2012 and above the Fed’s 2% target.

    The US and Canada missed a Trump administration imposed deadline on reaching an agreement to a reworking of NAFTA, but agreed to continue talks.

    US corporations posted a 16.1% gain in profits in the second quarter from the prior year, the largest gain in six years.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

  • 8/27/2018 Sometimes You Need Technology, Sometimes You Need to Go Old School

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 08/27/2018 Technology is an amazing tool, especially when it comes to communication. It can make us faster, more accurate, and more efficient. We’ve happily replaced phone calls with emails and emails with texts. In-person meetings? Forget about it! A quick conference call, webinar, or online chat is just as […]

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 08/27/2018

    Technology is an amazing tool, especially when it comes to communication. It can make us faster, more accurate, and more efficient.

    We’ve happily replaced phone calls with emails and emails with texts. In-person meetings? Forget about it! A quick conference call, webinar, or online chat is just as effective.

    Or is it?

    Regardless of what business you’re in, the relationships you have with your employees and customers are critical to your success. But no matter how great your writing skills are, no text or email will ever connect with someone like you can— live and in person.

    Are you hiding behind your screen?

    You don’t need to throw your devices out the window, but you do need to be honest with yourself. Are you so focused on technology-driven efficiency that you’re missing out on opportunities to personally interact with your colleagues, staff, and clients?

    Maybe you’re relying on technology to do the heavy lifting when tough issues need to be resolved. Sending a well-crafted email to handle a delicate situation may be a good enough solution. But having a face to face conversation with someone when there are real problems to discuss? Now that’s an opportunity!

    So, how can you tell if you are using technology as security blanket? If the thought of making that phone call or having that fact-to-face meeting gives you a sick feeling in your stomach, that’s a pretty clear sign. And that’s exactly when you need to pick up the phone or get in the car.

    There are times when putting the right words in a letter, e-mail or text will work perfectly fine, but there are also times when you should really go old-school. Talk in person. Ask for a meeting. Be empathetic. Show that you care.

    At the end of the day, your clients won’t remember all of those carefully crafted emails you sent, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel.

    Unplug to connect

    Ever had your Internet go down at work? At first, people get flustered. Frustrated. Uncomfortable. Everyone looks around awkwardly. What on earth are we supposed to do now?

    And then they start to talk. Make jokes. Maybe go for coffee. Discuss Game of Thrones. You couldn’t pay someone to come up with a better team building exercise. This is the stuff relationships are made of.

    Should you use all of the technology available to you at your job? Yes! By all means.

    But you should also commit to connecting on a more personal level with one client or coworker at least once a week. Heck, once a day if you’re game! You may be surprised at where it takes you. And all without a GPS signal.

    At Raffa Financial, we provide long-lasting benefits strategies to take care of your business and your employees. Located in Rockville, Maryland, we identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges for businesses all over the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area.

  • 8/23/2018 Do You REALLY Need a New Salesperson?

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 08/23/2018 Of course you want more sales. Most businesses do. But finding a new salesperson who can produce on par with your best is one of the most difficult hires to make. And the truth is, you might not even need to. Before you invest a ton of time […]

    Posted by Raffa Financial Services on 08/23/2018

    Of course you want more sales. Most businesses do. But finding a new salesperson who can produce on par with your best is one of the most difficult hires to make. And the truth is, you might not even need to.

    Before you invest a ton of time and energy into launching a search, take a moment to think about what it is you truly need.

    With a slight shift in thinking and strategy, you may be able to increase sales without the stress of hiring and training another salesperson.

    Sounds impossible, right?

    Wrong. Think of your most successful sales producer. When she first came onboard, she had all the time in the world. Time to prospect, time to make sales presentations, time to close deals. It’s no wonder she was so successful!

    But with that success has come other demands on her time. Now she’s spending more and more time taking care of her clients and protecting the businesses she’s built, which naturally leaves her with less and less time to spend on prospecting, presentations, and closing. At this point in the game, she may only be spending only 10% to 20% of her time on sales-related activities.

    Meanwhile, you want to keep increasing sales. So you decide to go looking for another salesperson just like her. Someone who can prospect, present, and close on par with what she was doing back in the day. But the truth is, your star salesperson could already be doing that for you. If you found a way to free up more of her time.

    Time is money

    Instead of hiring someone to replace you star salesperson’s revenue, why not hire someone to take on her non-sales related work instead? You know, all of those day-to-day service and process activities that are taking away from her ability to do what she does best: keep selling!

    If you hire someone to take those responsibilities, you’ll get your old salesperson (and her amazing numbers) back in no time flat. Without the expensive talent search and time consuming learning curve.

    Evaluate the various demands on your top salesperson’s time. When you come across tasks and activities that don’t have to do with prospecting, presenting, and closing, move them to a separate To Do list, then package them together to create a job description for the new person you want to hire.

    Based on how prolific your salesperson is, the new position could be relatively high level job. Perhaps even a relatively expensive one. But it will also be easier to fill and execute with predictable success. And the main advantage here is that it will free up your proven talent to get back out there and start closing deals and increasing revenue.

    Let your high performer shine

    Imagine what your best salesperson could do if you were able to give her back the 70% – 90% of her time that has slowly been taken over with non-sales related issues. Even if you only recapture 50% of that time, it will be a huge return on your hiring investment.

    The next time you find yourself wishing for another gifted, knowledgeable, and charismatic salesperson, and think for a moment. Do you really want to launch a search for your company’s next great sales talent, and invest the necessary time, energy and resources needed to bring them up to speed? Or do you just want to unleash your current superstars and let them do what they do best?

    Give your top performers the support they need to live up to their full potential, and you’ll quickly discover you have all the salespeople you need.

    Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Raffa Financial, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch with Raffa to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

    Photo by Oksana Mironova

  • 8/21/2018 Walmart; US Sales Rise and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through August 18th All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US Stocks gained for the week as concerns over Turkey’s crisis snowballing across the globe eased and earnings were solid.  The S&P 500 rose 0.6% […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through August 18th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US Stocks gained for the week as concerns over Turkey’s crisis snowballing across the globe eased and earnings were solid.  The S&P 500 rose 0.6% and the Dow gained 1.4% for the week.  Abroad, Japan edged down 0.1% and Europe sank 1.2% for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury ended the week at 2.87% up slightly from the previous week.

    China’s fixed asset investments hit their lowest level in close to two decades over the first seven months of the year.

    US retail sales rose 0.5% in July well ahead of forecasts and are up 6.4% from a year earlier.

    US factory output rose 0.3%.

    US and Chinese officials have discussed resuming talks to try and end the trade standoff prior to a meeting between the leaders of both countries in the fall.

    Walmart reported sales rose at the fastest pace in over a decade in the past quarter.

  • 8/20/2018 Leadership Sets the Tone for Your Team

    When you look around a company and see a common set of behaviors, you can usually tie it back to the behaviors of the leaders. Positive, focused, driven behaviors by leaders set an example, and it’s very common for the team to generally behave in the same way and have similar attitudes. It’s contagious. And […]

    When you look around a company and see a common set of behaviors, you can usually tie it back to the behaviors of the leaders.

    Positive, focused, driven behaviors by leaders set an example, and it’s very common for the team to generally behave in the same way and have similar attitudes. It’s contagious. And people tend to rise to this level of expectation or standard.

    The same holds true for the negative behaviors displayed by leaders. When the team regularly sees poor behavior, they begin to see it as acceptable and respond accordingly. People also tend to lower their output to the level of expectation or standard.

    Dangerous behaviors

    Poor behaviors that are demonstrated and tolerated are morale busters. Lack of effort, inspiration, courage, and follow-through by a leader can deflate even the most positive of people. Here are some poor leadership behaviors that can be detrimental to your team:

    • Not making decisions, avoiding commitments, not implementing scheduled changes
    • Lack of responsiveness to communications
    • Putting in minimum effort to achieve minimum expectations
    • Not meeting deadlines and goals
    • Not following through on commitments
    • Canceling and not showing up for meetings or appointments
    • Playing favorites based on relationships and not results
    • Making excuses for these behaviors rather than owning up

    If this sounds all too familiar, it’s time to do some evaluation to understand the real cause behind these behaviors, then do some work to make sure they don’t spread throughout the rest of the organization.

    Changing your tune

    If your leadership is displaying bad behaviors, the only way to turn the organization around is to acknowledge the problems— and then address them.

    If you’re part of the leadership team, ask for an honest assessment from your staff and colleagues. Once you’ve identified your issues, you ask for the help and accountability you need to get yourself (and everyone else) back on track.

    If you’re not the leader but you’ve spotted a leadership problem, it’s going to require a potentially difficult conversation on your part. It may not be enough to point out the behaviors themselves. You might also need to detail the impacts they are having on individuals and the organization.

    If you’re in a position where you can’t be the person directly influencing leadership behavior, you have a few choices, depending on your role.

    • You can do nothing.
    • You can talk to a person who has the power to influence company leaders, help them see the situation, and encourage them to take on that conversation.
    • You can work to create your own set of values and an alternate sub-culture within your group or department.
    • You can choose to leave.

    None of these things are going to be easy, but if an environment isn’t healthy and doesn’t provide a beneficial situation for you, your team, and your organization, someone should try to change it.

    Whether that person is you, your CEO, your HR Department, your Board of Directors, or some other key influencer, it needs to be done. Breaking poor behavior patterns is the best course of action to get your leadership and your company moving in the right direction.

    If this isn’t happening, you should be prepared for continued problems and an exodus of your best talent. You should also consider that your best career move may be to follow them out the door.

    There’s so much more to employee benefits than policies and premiums. Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? What about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive? If not, get in touch with Raffa. We live for this stuff!

    Photo by ernschie

  • 8/16/2018 Pro Tips for Training Your Employees. And Your Dog?

    If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably put a lot of time and effort into training your furry friends. Why? Because the ROI on a well-trained, happy dog is huge. Skip out on this important step and you’ll end up with a misbehaving yappy-pants on your hands.The same is true for your employees. If you […]

    If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably put a lot of time and effort into training your furry friends. Why? Because the ROI on a well-trained, happy dog is huge. Skip out on this important step and you’ll end up with a misbehaving yappy-pants on your hands.The same is true for your employees. If you don’t invest in proper training, it could come back to bite you.

    When it comes to training employees, there’s a ton of research on how best to do so. But sometimes it’s fun to look at it from another angle. Besides, who doesn’t want an excuse to post an adorable puppy pic? So instead of hitting the business books for great leadership advice, we’re going to take look at some top training tips from dog whisperer Paul Owens to see how they stack up.

    Ready to unleash the learning? Let’s go!

    Training tips from Dog Training Tips from Paul Owens, originally published in Animal Wellness Magazine.*

    Tip #1 – Plan ahead. Collect everything you and your new dog will need, including highly valued treats, a bed, collar, leash, tethers, and training clicker if you choose to use one. Create an environment that will promote success by puppy-proofing your house.

    Once you’ve found and hired that perfect person, it may be tempting to sit back and relax until they start. Don’t do it. Spend some time thinking about specific tools, technology and processes your new star will need to get going in the right direction. Gather those items in advance and put together a detailed onboarding plan. Consider appointing an in-house mentor for each person that you bring on. And while you can’t employee-proof your business, you can create an environment that will promote success, both for your new hires and throughout your company. (Don’t forget the treats!)

    Tip #2 – Make a behavioral wish list. Positive training isn’t about teaching your dog to stop doing something. It’s about teaching him what you want him to do instead. If you don’t know what you want him to do, he won’t be able to figure it out either, and both of you will end up barking at one another in frustration. Proactively teach your dog exactly what he is supposed to do rather than reactively try to correct unwanted behaviors.

    If only every boss understood this premise! Clear communication about desired behaviors and outcomes is key to employee success. Don’t give your new team members time to develop habits that need to be unlearned. Start them off right by laying out the job tasks, procedures and expectations. Keep communication lines open to minimize frustration on both ends.

    Tip #3 – Use consistent communication. We often inadvertently teach our dogs to do exactly what we don’t want them to do. For example, if you don’t want your dog to jump on you, don’t reinforce the jumping by occasionally petting him when he jumps. Be consistent and always have him sit or lie down before being petted.

    Consistent communications and role modeling will paint a clear picture of staff expectations and accountability. Make sure to apply your standards across the board, and not just with your new hires. If you have a policy that prohibits cell phone use during meetings, but a couple of managers are constantly scrolling, you’ll have a hard time getting that message through. Be consistent and lead by example.

    Tip #4 – Maintain realistic expectations. Older or larger dogs can’t always do what younger or smaller ones can do – and vice versa. Train at your dog’s individual learning rate and take physical and emotional abilities into account.

    There’s no one breed of employee. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and learning styles. Some will pick things up very quickly while others will take a few times to get it right. Some will be comfortable throwing themselves into projects and others will need more guidance. Once you have a feel for what your employee can do, set your expectations, goals, and training schedule accordingly for maximum progress and results.

    Tip #5 – Be positive and have fun. If it’s not fun for you, it’s not fun for your dog. Punishment and aversive training methods are not necessary and do nothing to promote or foster safety, patience, kindness and compassion. If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated, stop the training session and try again later. Positive training methods are far less stressful for you and your dog.

    If your current management style consists of barking orders and bopping people with newspapers, you’re not going to get the behaviors you want— or the employee retention you’d like. Workplace stress is one of the top causes of low employee engagement. It’s okay to set goals and work hard to achieve them, and of course there will be varying levels of intensity in every industry, but a punitive atmosphere will quickly squash enthusiasm, creativity, innovation, and trust. It’s important to maintain a positive approach— and your sense of humor.

    Better training = better results

    Training your dog is a labor of love. Why not look at your HR and leadership responsibilities in the same way? Recruiting and hiring great people is just the beginning. Developing the team, skills and environment that will allow you to reach your organizational goals takes time, energy, patience, and yes, occasional treats.

    But do it right and you’ll have a bunch of happy, loyal employees who greet you at the door each morning. And that’s pretty doggone cool.

    Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff! 

    * Tips have been edited for length.

    Photo by Mikkel Bigandt

  • 8/13/2018 Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through August 11th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. U.S. stocks had their five week winning streak snapped driven by trade concerns and the plunge of the Turkish Lira. Worries arose that the country would not be able to repay its debts and […]

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    U.S. stocks had their five week winning streak snapped driven by trade concerns and the plunge of the Turkish Lira. Worries arose that the country would not be able to repay its debts and its troubles could ripple across emerging markets. The S&P 500 eased 0.2% and the Dow dropped 0.6% for the week. Internationally, Japan, sank 1.0% and Europe fell 0.8% for the week.  Emerging markets dropped 2.3% over the week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell as investors sought safe havens ending the week at 2.86%.

    With the finalization of an additional $16 billion in tariffs of Chinese goods starting August 23rd it will bring the total amount of Chinese goods covered by US tariffs to $50 billion.

    Economists have raised their expectations for growth for 2018 to 3.0%, but see growth slowing beyond this year.

    The CPI rose 2.9% over the past year, the fastest pace since 2011. Core price rose 2.4%, the biggest gain since 2008. The rise in prices seen over the last year almost completely covers the gains in wages.

    Elon Musk tweeted he is considering taking the firm private valuing the firm over $70 billion. The statement sent shares 11% higher.

    Rite Aid and Alberstons called off their $24 billion merger due to investors’ protests.

    With 91% of firms in the S&P 500 having reported earnings, it is on pace to post the second fastest pace of profit growth since the third quarter of 2010.

     

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.
  • 8/13/2018 Change Management: You’ve Got This

    They say the only constant in life is change. And like most clever sayings, this one is also very true. Especially when it comes to your business.Today’s pace of change is faster than it’s ever been before. But here’s the kicker. It’s also the slowest it will ever be again. Just think about that for […]

    They say the only constant in life is change. And like most clever sayings, this one is also very true. Especially when it comes to your business.Today’s pace of change is faster than it’s ever been before. But here’s the kicker. It’s also the slowest it will ever be again. Just think about that for a second.

    When it comes to change, you have three basic choices:

    1. Bury your head in the sand
    2. Wait for it to find you, and then react
    3. Get out in front of it and take control

    Chances are we all know people and companies who have gone with option one— and how well that went. And yet plenty of people and organizations are all too willing to ignore impending change, or to embrace a strategy that is purely reactionary.

    If you run a business, this strategy isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. You need a better plan. Here are some key ways to help you deal with the organizational change that will inevitably come your way.

    Pay attention to it

    This means more than just pulling your head out of the sand.

    If you want to make change work for you, start by tuning in to what’s happening around you. Then, you can adjust your thinking, planning, and vision to match. Your goal is to be proactive about defining and creating your new reality instead of waiting for these changes to be forced upon you.

    To decide what the new future will look like, ask yourself this question:

    Based on what’s happening with our business/market/industry/technology, what critical elements do we need to put in place to set our organization up for success?

    Addressing this question will help make sure you’re able to ride the waves of change instead of helplessly watching them roll in and hoping they will spare you.

    To make effective changes in your business, you’ll want to evaluate the following:

    • Company profitability
    • Organizational growth
    • Your core value proposition
    • Your marketing and sales process
    • The skills and behaviors on the team
    • What resources you need to be successful
    • And perhaps many other elements of your organization

    The key here is that you (and your entire team) will need to understand how the organization has to evolve in order to remain relevant and viable.

    Facilitate it

    Simply defining your new future isn’t going to cut it. You have to commit to making it happen.

    Way too often when a change initiative is introduced, the team simply smiles and rolls their eyes, quietly understanding that nothing ever really comes from these things.

    And while it’s tempting to blame this lack of action on bad attitudes, the truth is that often it’s leadership who has trained everyone to react this way. They’ve done this by not committing to past initiatives, by sidestepping difficult work and decisions, and by neglecting to follow through on critical things that should have happened as a result.

    In addition to creating your new vision, you will need to follow through with implementation. This step will involve some key pieces:

    • Communication – Take the time to explain why the change is necessary and how it will be addressed.
    • Planning – Establish and share a formal strategy for how you will move from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.
    • Execution – Make sure everyone understands not just how they will be impacted, but also how they will be expected to contribute.
    • Evaluation and adjustment – Report back to the team on all of the above. Track your progress and results on a regular basis and make corrections as needed.

    Commit to it

    Now that you’re rolling, you’ll want to keep this momentum going. Don’t set things in motion and then forget about them or give up when they seem difficult. Stick to it!

    One thing that will help is taking the time to make sure both your leadership and your team clearly understand the following:

    • Where the organization is going
    • Why it’s important
    • How you will get there
    • When it will happen
    • How they will be impacted
    • What they are expected to contribute

    Clearly articulating the changes that are coming will allow people to feel excited instead of scared, empowered instead of frustrated, and knowledgeable instead of in the dark. Meanwhile, when your team understands how they fit into the bigger picture, they will be much more willing to stop fighting the change initiatives and start fighting with you to put them in place.

    And that’s the kind of change that builds better businesses.

    Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff! 

    Photo by Nattapol Sritongcom

  • 8/9/2018 Why You Want Your Employees to Take Vacation

    Today’s employees aren’t just mindlessly punching the clock. They’re looking for work that has meaning and purpose. They want to be in organizations whose values are in alignment, and where they are able to grow, both personally and professionally. When they find that perfect fit, they’re often willing to put more time, energy, and effort […]

    vacationToday’s employees aren’t just mindlessly punching the clock. They’re looking for work that has meaning and purpose. They want to be in organizations whose values are in alignment, and where they are able to grow, both personally and professionally.

    When they find that perfect fit, they’re often willing to put more time, energy, and effort into their work— including after hours. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    Over time, working non-stop will cause even the most enthusiastic employees to experience decreased job performance and, ironically, decreased satisfaction. If you let your best team members burn themselves out, you’ll soon be watching them walk out the door for the next “perfect” opportunity.

    To keep this from happening, it’s up to leadership and management to:

    • Recognize the importance of down time and the dangers of burnout
    • Put systems in place so everyone feels good about taking time off to recharge

    Allowing vs. Encouraging

    There’s a big difference between having a vacation policy and building a culture where people feel good about using it. So how do you create a culture that doesn’t just allow, but encourages, adequate time off for leaders and staff?

    Re-think your paid time off policy – Still thinking in terms of sick time vs. vacation days? It’s time to make a change. If your employees need a day off, it doesn’t matter what for. Combine sick and vacation days into one PTO policy so everyone can take time when they need it.

    Try setting a vacation minimum – Does anyone really need to go an entire year without taking a vacation? Is this the way build loyalty and create happy employees? Not likely. Try setting minimum vacation limit, and make sure everyone takes it— including you. It may seem strange at first, but all work and no play isn’t good for your health, your team, or your business.

    Make it easy – Employees need to feel okay about taking time off so that they can truly relax while they’re gone. A stress-filled vacation isn’t relaxing, and a crippling re-entry period will quickly wipe away the benefits of even the most reenergizing trip.

    Yes, vacation time requires advanced notice, scheduling, and pre-approval. But once it’s on the calendar, it can be planned around. Make sure your employees get additional team and management support to manage workloads before they leave, take care of anything that comes up while they’re gone, and help them get caught up when they return.

    Involve the team – Most people are happy to help out when co-workers are gone, especially if they know that the favor will be returned when they’re out and about. Taking on a temporary task or two is a small price to pay for your own blissfully uninterrupted vacation.

    Lead by example – You’ve hired great people and trained them well. Now it’s your job to trust them to get things done, whether or not you’re in close proximity. Doing so will not only relieve your own stress, it will show your team you believe in them and empower them to do great things.

    Let your employees know you have confidence in their abilities, then prove it by encouraging them to take time off regularly, taking vacation yourself, and letting them take care of business and each other while you’re gone.

    Learning to let go

    This might be the hardest part of having your awesome team members out of the office. You’re excited (or nervous) about a new initiative, a project milestone, or a big sale.

    Newsflash: IT CAN WAIT.

    You and your employees deserve uninterrupted time away from work. But if work-related items are constantly popping up in phones, laptops, and alerts, even the most pristine white sand beach can suddenly feel like the office. And that familiar wave of workplace intensity can come rolling right on back. Don’t let this happen to you or any of your hard working team members.

    Set up a no-contact rule for yourself and your team regarding the person who is out. If something comes up that can be handled in-house, don’t check in or run it by them. Just make it happen.

    If there’s a situation that can’t be handled without the vacationing person, draft an email with the details while they’re fresh in your mind. But don’t fire it off to them. You can schedule it to go out later or send it to yourself and make a note to chat with them about it after they return. Rest assured, even the most demanding client will generally understand the language of “Your account manager is on an Italian wine tour.” You may even build rapport commiserating about how you wish you were, too.

    If you build a strong culture that values your employees as more than just worker bees, you’re much more likely to attract the hard-working, fun-loving employees you desire.

    And when they do come back from vacation, they’ll be way happier to see you. They’ll also be more relaxed, refreshed, energized, and motivated. Because you gave them the gift of time.

    Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Raffa, we’re not interested in finding you a policy solution for this year. We’ll create a long-term, employee benefit strategy designed to help you become an employer of choice. Want to build a better future for both your business and your employees? Get in touch with Raffa.

    Photo by yarruta

  • 8/8/2018 Executive Fitness: Try Mountain Biking!

    Are you a busy executive trying to maintain some work/life balance? Is it a struggle to keep in shape, relieve stress, and exercise in a way that is enjoyable? Are you finding that running and other workouts you used to do are getting harder, boring, or are putting strain on your knees, hips, or your […]

    Are you a busy executive trying to maintain some work/life balance? Is it a struggle to keep in shape, relieve stress, and exercise in a way that is enjoyable? Are you finding that running and other workouts you used to do are getting harder, boring, or are putting strain on your knees, hips, or your entire body?

    I experienced all of the above. And then one day, I started riding a mountain bike.

    Mountain bikes are a wide-ranging and versatile class of bicycles that all have one thing in common—knobby tires for off-road riding. A road bike is built only for the road, but a mountain bike can go anywhere. You can ride a mountain bike on paved trails, canal paths, fire roads, hiking trails, and even up and down ski hills.

    Mountain bike specific trails are being built in record numbers all across the country, and tons of people are jumping on board. Including lots of busy professionals. Here are some reasons why:

    It’s convenient

    Trying to get a bike ride in before or after work often means riding during rush hour, which is less than ideal for road biking. Road riding means sharing your space with cars, which can be very dangerous for cyclists— even with bike lanes. This explains why you see so many cyclists on the road at 7:00am on Saturdays and  Sundays when traffic is light.

    But why wait until the weekend? A mountain bike can be a game-changer when it comes to getting exercise and riding your bike any time of day. Just find the nearest trail and you’re off!

    It’s quiet

    mountainsIf you’re in a high-stress job or high-level position, you may not have much quiet time to think. Jumping on your mountain bike is a fun an healthy way to get some. You may be surprised by the power of a mind-clearing ride, or by the ideas and solutions that

    pop into your head on the trail. Mountain biking allows your mind to unwind as you quietly ride in harmony with nature.

    It’s exciting

    Mountain biking is never boring. There is something interesting to see on every ride. In addition to riding alongside the usual suspects like deer, squirrels, and chipmunks, you can spot some amazing wildlife. My short list of exciting sights includes a mother fox with two kits, a fisher, a coyote, mating owls, and several black bears and cubs. It certainly beats rush hour!

    It’s a workout

    It might feel like you’re just out having fun, but the physical benefits of mountain biking are numerous.

    Mountain biking can help you maintain your weight and develop strong leg muscles, both of which are good for everyone who plans on being able to walk and stay active indefinitely. Mountain biking is low impact, which makes it a great fit for riders of all ages. But don’t let that fool you. Hopping on your mountain bike can provide a total body workout. Even if you’re riding on relatively modest off-road trails, you’ll reap the benefits of strengthening your upper body, arms, grip and core.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.45.36 PMNo matter where you ride, mountain biking provides a fantastic aerobic workout. But once you start climbing hills or riding twisting trails, it becomes an even more intense workout capable of raising and holding your heart rate to a threshold level for an extended period of time, which is now considered perfectly modern high intensity training. The alternative is to pay big money at gym for a membership, a routine, a class, and an instructor to get the same results.

    It’s satisfying

    Mountain biking will seem extremely challenging at first, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while. But stick with it and you will see progress happen quickly, and continue indefinitely. When you ride trails, you will inevitably run into rocks, roots, or fallen trees in your way. Accepting the challenge and learning to wrestle your bike through, over, and around difficult obstacles not only leads to an amazing workout, it leaves you with a fantastic feeling of accomplishment.

    It’s relevant

    Think mountain biking doesn’t have anything to do with business? Think again.

    This sport forces you to be agile, think on your feet, and make quick decisions. It can also push you outside of your comfort zones and teach you valuable lessons, especially when it comes to overcoming obstacles.

    When you’re on your bike, the key to getting past the various bumps in your path is having enough momentum and determination to make it over them.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.38.45 PMIf you think you can’t do it, the trail will prove you right. But if you keep your momentum up and have the confidence to face that rock, root, or hill dead on, your bike will lead the way. You may fail the first few times, but if you get back up and try again, eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of the hill, with a really great view of how far you’ve come.

    How’s that for a good life lesson?

    The mountain biking community tends to be a fun, friendly, and welcoming bunch. The people you meet on the trails could easily turn into great workout partners, friends, and even business connections.

    Now that’s what I call work/life balance!

    For more mountain biking basics and what to look for in your first bike, read Mountain Biking 101: Steve’s Tips for Getting Started.

    Written by Steve Heger, President, Raffa Financial Services, Inc.

    steve-hegerAn avid Mountain Bike racer and enthusiast, Steve races both Mountain Bikes and Cyclocross as a Masters Division, CAT 1 (expert) rider, year around. He has made the podium over 25 times, with 15 wins. He is a five-time participant in the USA Cycling National Championships, winning two Silver Medals.

    Need help with employee wellness, communication, and retention? Want to be an employer of choice in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area? Get in touch with Raffa. We love this stuff! And it’s what we do for our clients every single day.

    Photos by Steve Heger… in action!