Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog

News & Resources the do more blog​​

  • 5/15/2017 CPI-U Rose 2.2% in April from a Year Earlier

    Driven by disappointing results from brick-and-mortar retailers US stocks fell over the week. The S&P 500 ticked down 0.3% and the Dow fell 0.5% for the week.  Abroad, Japan jumped 2.3% and Europe rose 0.3% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury eased slightly over the week ending at 2.33%.

    Driven by disappointing results from brick-and-mortar retailers US stocks fell over the week. The S&P 500 ticked down 0.3% and the Dow fell 0.5% for the week.  Abroad, Japan jumped 2.3% and Europe rose 0.3% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury eased slightly over the week ending at 2.33%.

    Emmanuel Macron easily won the runoff election for the French presidency. A victory for the EU.

    US grew at a 0.7% rate in the first quarter while the EU grew 1.8%. Brazil and China are showing growth after two years of contracting.  The IMF has also become more bullish on emerging market prospects.  Consumer sentiment has reached the highest level since 2007 in Europe.

    Retail sales rose 0.4% in April the best gain in three months, but fell short of expectations.

    Consumer sentiment hit its highest reading since the beginning of the year.

    The CPI-U rose 2.2% in April from a year earlier, while excluding food and energy it rose 1.9%. The core inflation increase was the first time it has been below 2% since October 2015.

    With over 90% of companies in the S&P 500 reporting earnings for the first quarter, earnings are on pace to rise 14%, the fastest annual growth since 2011.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of EconomicCalendar.com

  • 5/1/2017 First Qtr US GDP Slowed on Weak Consumer Spending

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 29th US Stocks rose over the week driven by the pro EU French election results and strong earnings reports. The S&P 500 was up 1.5% and the Dow gained 1.9% for the week. The Nasdaq hit a new all time high crossing the 6,000 threshold.  Abroad, Europe […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 29th

    US Stocks rose over the week driven by the pro EU French election results and strong earnings reports. The S&P 500 was up 1.5% and the Dow gained 1.9% for the week. The Nasdaq hit a new all time high crossing the 6,000 threshold.  Abroad, Europe surged 2.4% and Japan jumped 3.1% for the week.  The yield on the 10 Year Treasury rose to 2.28%.

    Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far right candidate Marine Le Pen will head to a runoff vote after Sunday’s Presidential election in France. Polls suggest that Macron, a pro EU candidate, is expected to win.

    The S&P Case Shiller Home Price index for February rose 5.8% from a year earlier.

    The ECB elected to stand pat with their current easy money policies after their most recent meeting.

    First quarter US GDP slowed on weak consumer spending. The economy grew at just 0.7%, the slowest pace in three years.

    Caterpillar, McDonald’s, GM, Amazon, Alphabet, Intel, Chevron, Exxon, Microsoft, Honeywell, Samsung and Twitter all posted strong first quarters, while GE, Qualcomm, US Steel, Ford, Proctor and Gamble and PepsiCo disappointed.

    With 60% of firms in the S&P 500 reporting, earnings for the first quarter are on pace to rise 12.5% from a year ago, well above the 9.1% estimate.

    Becton Dickinson is purchasing C.R. Bard for $24 billion in a merger of medical supplies manufacturers.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Image courtesy of foxbusiness.com

  • 4/26/2017 Ep 15. – Sustaining Mission Impact: How Do Great Organizations Stay Great?

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast episode, Karen Schuler, Managing Director of Search, Transition & Planning, discusses sustaining mission impact with President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi. To delve into the topic, they reference key aspects such as origin, leadership, culture, and board.

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast episode, Karen Schuler, Managing Director of Search, Transition & Planning, discusses sustaining mission impact with President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi. To delve into the topic, they reference key aspects such as origin, leadership, culture, and board.

    Tony Cancelosi and Karen Schuler

    To begin the podcast, Schuler and Cancelosi discuss how sustainability has roots in the environment and ecology. In order to veer away from this definition of definition, Cancelosi references to:

    • start focusing on organizational sustainability
    • dig deeper into mission sustainability
    • dive into mission impact sustainability

    Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind was established 117 years ago and Cancelosi believes that the organization’s ability to “hire good people,” listen to employees wants and needs, and effectively deal with change has led to the organization’s success in sustaining mission impact. “Leaders who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say,” says Cancelosi.

    As the conversation continues, Cancelosi discusses that in order to have any kind of sustainability an organization, key items are necessary. He references taking the following into consideration:

    • internal controls
    • operational efficiency
    • risk management
    • viability and reporting process

    Throughout this episode, Schuler and Cancelosi dive into the importance of maintaining relevance, providing strong culture, and understanding the human aspect of change in reference to sustaining mission impact. An important takeaway is that sustainability will not happen without really working for it.

    “Do the thing even when no one is watching. It’s called integrity,” noted Cancelosi.

    If you enjoyed this podcast, listen to the prequel “So, What Makes Great Organizations “Great” Anyway?


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

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  • 4/26/2017 US Stocks Rose Over the Week; Positive Earnings Reports

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 22nd US stocks rose over the week on positive earnings reports. The S&P 500 gained 0.9% and the Dow rose 0.5% for the week.  Abroad, Europe eased 0.6% ahead of the French election and Japan had its best week since February jumping 1.6% for the week.  The […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 22nd

    US stocks rose over the week on positive earnings reports. The S&P 500 gained 0.9% and the Dow rose 0.5% for the week.  Abroad, Europe eased 0.6% ahead of the French election and Japan had its best week since February jumping 1.6% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury bond ended the week at 2.23% and in line with the previous week.  Oil fell below $50 a barrel dropping 7.4% over the week.

    China posted a higher than expected 6.9% GDP growth rate in the first quarter, the fastest rate of growth since the third quarter of 2015. The pace is well ahead of its 6.5% annual growth target.

    UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for early elections in June in order to strengthen her position in the country’s upcoming negotiations to leave the EU.

    Netflix, United, VW, BofA, Morgan Stanley, Honeywell, American Express and Blackrock posted positive earnings reports, while IBM, Goldman Sachs, Qualcomm, Verizon and GE disappointed.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Image courtesy of businessline.com

  • 4/17/2017 Inflation Unexpectedly Eased in March

    US stocks sank over the week on geopolitical concerns with Syria, Russia and North Korea. The S&P 500 sank 1.1% and the Dow eased 1.0% for the week.  Internationally, Japan fell 1.8% and Europe was off 0.2% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell to 2.24%, its lowest level since mid […]

    US stocks sank over the week on geopolitical concerns with Syria, Russia and North Korea. The S&P 500 sank 1.1% and the Dow eased 1.0% for the week.  Internationally, Japan fell 1.8% and Europe was off 0.2% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell to 2.24%, its lowest level since mid November, as investors moved into safe haven investments.

    Economist have lowered their growth forecasts for the first quarter and 2017 on increasing skepticism many of the campaign promises will materialize to same degree or at all.

    Retail sales fell 0.2% in March from February and February was revised down from a 0.1% gain to a 0.3% decrease. It’s the first decline in two straight months since 2015.

    Inflation unexpectedly eased in March with the CPI U falling 0.3% from February. Excluding food and energy it fell 0.1%.

    An internal Wells Fargo report slammed former CEO Stumpf over the bank’s sales scandal and the firm is clawing back $75 million in pay from former executives.

    JP Morgan and Citigroup posted sharp increases in profit in the first quarter, but warned investors that the benefits of higher interest rates and Trump’s election won’t help the banks as quickly as many investors expected.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

  • 4/13/2017 Panera Bread to Sell to European JAB Holding for $7.2 billion

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 8th US Stocks were flat for the week after digesting a variety of economic reports and US missile strike on Syria. The S&P 500 eased 0.3% and Dow edged down slightly for the week.  Internationally, Europe was flat, but Japan fell 1.3% for the week.  The yield […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through April 8th

    US Stocks were flat for the week after digesting a variety of economic reports and US missile strike on Syria. The S&P 500 eased 0.3% and Dow edged down slightly for the week.  Internationally, Europe was flat, but Japan fell 1.3% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury edged down slightly to end the week at 2.38%.

    The jobs report fell well below expectations with only 98,000 jobs added below the 175,000 expected. In addition, the January and February reports were revised to show 38,000 less new hires.    However, the unemployment rate did drop 0.2% to 4.5%.  The average hourly earnings rose 2.7% in March from a year earlier in line with expectations.

    US manufacturing activity continued to expand in March, however at a reduced rate as compared to February.

    Auto sales dipped in March.

    Minutes from the Fed’s March meeting were released showing that it would likely begin shrinking a $4.5 trillion loan portfolio later this year.

    US firms in the S&P 500 are expected to post an 11.2% jump in earnings in the first quarter over last year, the strongest performance since 2011.

    Tesla posted its best quarter to date with a sales increase of 69%. It is now the second most highly valued auto firm in the US behind GM.

    Panera Bread agreed to sell itself to European investment fund JAB holding for $7.2 billion.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of bisnow.com

  • 4/12/2017 Have You Outgrown Your Current GovCon Financial System?

          Is your old system a legacy system that is inflexible and expensive? Would an effective cloud-based solution better address the IT direction of your company? At the heart of every successful government contractor is a business system that simplifies business processes and improves productivity while supporting regulatory compliance.  The ideal system works […]


     

     

     

    Is your old system a legacy system that is inflexible and expensive?

    Would an effective cloud-based solution better address the IT direction of your company?

    At the heart of every successful government contractor is a business system that simplifies business processes and improves productivity while supporting regulatory compliance.  The ideal system works with the organization’s internal work flow to effectively support a one size does NOT fit all approach.  Instead, focuses on making the business system work for your business model and processes to keep you competitive in a cost sensitive environment.

    Join industry experts from Raffa and JAMIS April 19th as they deliver insight into overcoming the pitfalls of compliance obstacles with some helpful tips and introduce you to JAMIS Prime Cloud ERP, software designed for government contractors.

    REGISTER NOW

    SEMINAR AGENDA

    • Breakfast
    • Introductions
    • Compliance Overview
    • JAMIS Prime Cloud ERP Demo
    • Q&A
    • Closing Remarks

    Who Should Attend: Anyone looking for compliant accounting solutions, CFO, Controllers, Finance Director, Contract Managers, Accounting Professionals, Procurement

    Date: April 19 8:30 AM -11:00 AM EST
    Location: JAMIS – 8200 Greensboro Drive, Suite #130, McLean, VA
    Map & Directions
    Hosted by: Raffa Tech & JAMIS Software
    Meal: Breakfast
    Presenter 1: Seth Zarny, Raffa Partner
    Presenter 2: Glenn Anstead, Raffa Senior Manager
    Presenter 3: Steve Brander, JAMIS Vice President
    CPE Credit: 3

  • 4/5/2017 Consumer Confidence Hit Highest Level in 16 Years

    US stocks had their best quarterly performance since the end of 2015 as investors moved from expecting changes in US policy to expecting stronger economy growth. For the week, the S&P 500 was up 0.8% and the Dow rose 0.3%.  Internationally, Europe gained 1.2%, while Japan sank 1.8% for the week.  The yield on the […]

    US stocks had their best quarterly performance since the end of 2015 as investors moved from expecting changes in US policy to expecting stronger economy growth. For the week, the S&P 500 was up 0.8% and the Dow rose 0.3%.  Internationally, Europe gained 1.2%, while Japan sank 1.8% for the week.  The yield on the 10 Year Treasury was flat for the week finishing March at 2.40%.

    Margin debt reached an all time high in February, a new sign of investor bullishness.

    US home prices in January increased at their fastest rate since 2014. The Case Shiller index rose 5.9% over the trailing twelve months.  Much of the surge in pricing has been driven by limited supply with the number of homes for sale down 7.1%.

    Consumer confidence hit its highest level in 16 years.

    The UK officially notified the EU of its intention to leave setting off a likely acrimonious 2 year negotiation.

    Fourth quarter GDP was revised up to 2.1% from 1.9% above expectations.

    The Fed is currently planning to make two additional rate increases this year then pause near the end of the year to begin to unwind the $4.5 trillion portfolio of mortgage and Treasury securities. The plan depends on the continued steady growth of the economy.

    The personal consumption expenditures index, the preferred measure of inflation by the Fed, rose to 2.1% in February for the first time surpassing the 2% goal the Fed targets.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Image courtesy of abcnews.com

  • 3/30/2017 Ep 14. – Preparing for Executive Transition: The Board’s Role and Perspective

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Pamela Gilbert, Chair of the American Antitrust Institute’s Board of Directors about the board’s roles and challenges in preparing for and successfully leading an executive transition.

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Pamela Gilbert, Chair of the American Antitrust Institute’s Board of Directors about the board’s roles and challenges in preparing for and successfully leading an executive transition.

    march-podcast.png

    Tom Adams and Pamela Gilbert

     

    For more information on executive transitions read our blog post associated with this podcast, Six Tips for Boards: Preparing for Executive Transition.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

    Listen Now

  • 3/30/2017 Six Tips for Boards: Preparing for Executive Transition

    By Tom Adams, Director, Succession and Sustainability  Executive transitions may look simple and straightforward to some board leaders. As Pam Gilbert, current Board Chair of American Antitrust Institute observed, “If your executive is doing her or his job well, they make the job look easy. Then as I have learned from being involved in several […]

    By Tom Adams, Director, Succession and Sustainability 

    Executive transitions may look simple and straightforward to some board leaders. As Pam Gilbert, current Board Chair of American Antitrust Institute observed, “If your executive is doing her or his job well, they make the job look easy. Then as I have learned from being involved in several executive transitions, when that executive decides to leave, we as board leaders find out how complicated the job is and the challenge of thoughtfully hiring and connecting successfully with a successor. And this is even more complex if the executive was the founder or has served a long-tenure and/or transformed the organization.”

    The following are six suggestions that emerged from Raffa’s transition, search and succession work and our recent podcast with Pam Gilbert about the board’s roles and challenges in preparing for and successfully leading an executive transition:

    1. Don’t Expect Executive Transition to be Easy or Simple

    Most humans like to avoid conflict and challenges. One way to do that is to deny what is happening or its significance. Another way is to avoid action and hope for a magical solution. Neither of these approaches results in gains for the organization and its mission. Admit hiring a nonprofit executive is among the most important duties of board. It is different than and harder than one manager hiring an employee. The good news is there are a lot of helpful resources to guide boards with how to lead executive transitions well. (link to raffa resources on web?) Embrace the opportunity and work to make the most of it.

    2. Start Early – be perpetually getting ready for transition

    The departure of a founder or long-tenured executive is a big deal. It has unique dimensions not found in other transitions. The culture, important relationships, and even in some cases the identity of the organization is closely tied to the departing executive. There are many reasons not to start early. The executive fears being a lame duck or being pushed out. The board fears sending the wrong message to the executive. By normalizing and making part of the work each year attention to succession and sustainability planning, the organization can prepare for inevitable and eventual executive transition without calling it that. Smart leaders begin work early on succession and sustainability and don’t stop.

    3. Ensure board, managers and staff are appropriately engaged over long-term

    The days of John or Jane Wayne as “hero or heroine executive” are over. Too much over dependence on the executive is not healthy for the organization or sustainable. Fewer and fewer people want those kinds of jobs. Building a culture where the managers and staff are involved in building leader capacity and bench strength for each position reduces the risk of executive transition. Similarly boards who are proactive about recruiting and engaging board members who have time to participate and add value are better prepared for transition. The needs and duties of board leaders change as the organization and its ways of working and getting needed resources change. The stepping up required of board and managers during transition is less traumatic if those muscles are already regularly exercised. Staff who are excluded from the transition process become quite anxious and have a hard time connecting well with the new executive.

    4. Focus on both the transition and the search

    It is normal to put the emphasis on finding the right person. This is particularly true if we are still looking for the perfect hero leader (God on a good day). Experience shows repeatedly that when a nonprofit ignores the transition – the context and changes required to successfully transition leaders and the emotional experience of the leaders and staff – the risks for a failed or flawed transition increase. Gilbert observed: “It is often only in hindsight that we appreciate how much change the organization will need as it transitions. As board leaders, we each have a limited view. I am convinced we as boards need outside help without an agenda and with deep transition and search experience to make sure we are paying attention to what is important in this process. I have seen boards hope for the best or rush to get to the hire and find out they did not engage enough. In some cases the organization ends up going out of business. This is a serious responsibility and the answers are not obvious.”

    5. Be proactive and thoughtful about how to handle internal candidates

    Boards and outgoing executives are often conflicted about how much or little to encourage internal candidates. Again there is no one way. Ideally the organization is engaged annually in a leader development process. The executive and board are discussing the leadership team and requirements and opportunity for growth. The written Succession Policy is an opportunity for the Board to establish how it wants to handle internal candidates. In most cases, internal candidates are more empowered if compared to external candidates. However there are exceptions to this rule. Gilbert observes: “At AAI, we ended up hiring our Vice President. We did a thorough search, had a very strong pool and the interview process helped the Board and our new executive gain confidence that hiring internally was the right decision.”

    6. Pay attention to the organizational transition as you onboard your new executive.

    Research in Daring to Lead (2011) showed that new executives need more attention and support in year 2 and 3. Most boards pay some attention to the initial onboarding. The challenge for the board during these early years with a new executive is to find balance between micro-management, overreacting to recent experiences positive or negative, and supporting the new executive while ensuring accountability. The board has been preparing for both an organizational and executive transition. The organization may need to shift its culture, ways of raising revenue, services mix. The new executive is hired to partner with the board and staff in advancing this organizational pivot. The board is best served by organizing to support the executive and organizational transition over a 2-3 year period.

    Executive and organizational transitions done well ensure continuity of mission impact and ongoing growth and retention of leaders needed for success.

    For more information on Raffa’s succession and executive transition services listen to the Preparing for Executive Transition: The Board’s Role and Perspective podcast and other podcasts, read this just published case study on internal succession published in the Nonprofit Quarterly and the Evolution of Executive Transition and Allied Practices essay.

  • 3/27/2017 US Stocks Worst Week Since Before Election

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 25th US Stocks had their worst week since before the election on concerns over whether the president’s agenda will meet investor expectations.  The S&P 500 sank 1.4% and the Dow dropped 1.5% for the week.  Internationally, Japan fell 1.4% and Europe edged down 0.5% for the week.  […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 25th

    US Stocks had their worst week since before the election on concerns over whether the president’s agenda will meet investor expectations.  The S&P 500 sank 1.4% and the Dow dropped 1.5% for the week.  Internationally, Japan fell 1.4% and Europe edged down 0.5% for the week.  The yield on the 10 Year Treasury fell to 2.40%, its lowest level since the end of February. 

    US durable goods orders rose 1.7% in February, but excluding aircraft purchases it rose 0.4%.

    After 7 years of losses Sears said it may not be able to continue operations.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of foxbusiness.com

  • 3/20/2017 Retail Sales Posted Smallest Gain Since Last Summer

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 18th US Stocks rose slightly over the week as it appeared, based on Fed comments, that they would not raise rates as quickly as the market was expecting. The S&P 500 gained 0.2% and the Dow ticked up 0.1% for the week.  Internationally, Europe rose 1.4%, while […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 18th

    US Stocks rose slightly over the week as it appeared, based on Fed comments, that they would not raise rates as quickly as the market was expecting. The S&P 500 gained 0.2% and the Dow ticked up 0.1% for the week.  Internationally, Europe rose 1.4%, while Japan fell 0.5% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury, after reaching its highest level in over two years, fell over the week to 2.50%.

    The Fed announced it was raising the Fed funds rate a quarter percentage point to between 0.75% and 1.0%. They said they still expected to make two additional quarter percentage point increases this year.  The increase was made as the Fed views the US economy as being on more solid footing.  The projections were less aggressive than the market had anticipated.  As a result treasury yields fell.  The 10 Year Treasury yield posted its largest one day drop, 0.10%, since June.

    Retail sales posted their smallest gain since last summer rising just 0.1% in February.

    Geert Wilders, an anti-immigration candidate in the Netherlands, failed to make inroads in the Dutch election.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

  • 3/18/2017 How to Lead Change Management

    By Laurie Tarpey, CPA, Senior Manager in Raffa, P.C.’s Managed Accounting Practice Do you find that when you’re facing a challenge similar to one you’ve seen before, you think you know exactly what to do?  Maybe your manager told you what she thinks the problem is and its cause, so you’re ready to swoop in with a solution. Or maybe because […]

    By Laurie Tarpey, CPA, Senior Manager in Raffa, P.C.’s Managed Accounting Practice

    Do you find that when you’re facing a challenge similar to one you’ve seen before, you think you know exactly what to do?  Maybe your manager told you what she thinks the problem is and its cause, so you’re ready to swoop in with a solution. Or maybe because of your leadership role, you think you need to have all the answers right away.

    When I did a Google search on change management, I got 470 million hits including links to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Accenture and Amazon books. There are complex theories, models, “keys to” and case studies.

    I think the most powerful way to begin is by listening.

    What I learned from my grandmother

    A number of years ago, my grandmother bumped her head in a fall and was confined to a hospital bed for over a week. To maintain leg strength, a physical therapist gave her a series of exercises. I kept encouraging her to do them. I stood next to her bed and “coached” her through the routine. At one point she got exasperated and said, “Laurie! Stop bossing me!” There was a pause…and then we both burst out laughing. But she was right. She knew she’d been told to do the exercises. But it wasn’t enough to make her do them. I’d considered nothing about her motivations (as an elderly woman), whether she had questions about what to expect (pain? pace of progress?), or whether she even wanted my help doing them.

    Listen when you have no clue about the process you’re overseeing

    A CEO once assigned me oversight of a manager and a creative workflow process that seemed outside my finance wheelhouse. The manager running the process was initially dismayed. She thought that assigning the controller to supervise her and the process was “kind of random.” I kind of agreed. But our CEO thought I was good at process management. So there we were.

    I told the manager that she was the subject matter expert. My first priority was to learn the process flow from her, and then to hear her thoughts on what was and wasn’t working. Turns out she had several frustrations with the current process, including noncompliance. And she had some great ideas on how to revamp it. She also thought she needed a company leader to champion her. So we agreed we’d ask our chief of creative services, a highly respected guy with the creative team and a big fan of hers, to help us.

    Our next step was for the manager herself to listen. She asked her colleagues what was getting in their way of compliance. She asked them if they were aware that noncompliance caused hiccups in her ability to meet their quality and time goals. She asked for the changes they’d like, and their feedback on her proposed changes. She then incorporated what she’d heard into a redesigned process that the creative chief and I introduced, and she presented. It turned out to be a big improvement.

    If I hadn’t started with listening, I wouldn’t have established credibility with her, nor learned of her great ideas and obstacles. If she hadn’t listened, she wouldn’t have gotten buy-in along the way, nor reflected her colleagues’ good ideas in the final process.

    Listen when the apparent problem might not be the real problem

    Another time, I was asked to lead revising a budget process that had been causing widespread frustration. The problem was thought to be insufficient training with our relatively new budget software. I had just joined the organization and knew little about the software besides its strong reputation.

    So my first instinct was to listen and learn. I attended regular finance and operational team meetings, and asked staff what was causing them “heartburn” in the current process. My staff and I asked for each person’s wish list. If each could have improvements in our procedures and software, what would they look like? We ultimately learned that the problems were less with the software and more with our process. There was confusion about roles and responsibilities. There was also a lack of understanding about the importance of meeting interim deadlines in the budget process to allow time for the important back-and-forth between operations and finance. Some items on the wish list were technically infeasible. Others were solvable with a short training session. We incorporated all the feedback into a restructured process that included clear roles and responsibilities, a budget “help desk,” software “tips and tricks” and a collaboratively designed timetable.

    The revised process was, as one person said, “1,000 times better.” If I’d jumped in with just software training instead of listening, we wouldn’t have solved the real problems with the process, and we’d have missed an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the operating and finance teams.

    Listen with empathy

    Feel the other person’s grief. It shows respect. Besides being decent (obviously), it’s practical. You can’t change a process alone. People are more motivated to create change with you when they know you feel their pain and respect it.

    Listen with imagination

    Put yourself in the other person’s place. Imagine: if I were experiencing these hassles, what would I want to change and how? Then ask the other person whether that sounds right. Listen, and re-imagine. And ask again. Process issues can be complex and nuanced. It can be tough to identify just what’s at the root. You need to probe beyond the first complaints to truly understand the problems, and therefore the opportunities.

    When my colleagues and I are struggling to understand the real problem or we can’t fathom the fix, I often find it helpful to ask people to start with the dream. In their biggest dream, what would success look like from their point of view and in their day-to-day work? We can always whittle our way back to the reality of what is possible. But it can help to start with the ideal.

    Listen with fairness

    Some people are vocal. Some people suffer in silence. You need to hear from everyone involved in a process to develop the most effective changes. Be thankful for the vocal people – they highlight problems and therefore opportunities. But make a point to ask your quieter colleagues for their feedback on what’s working and isn’t, and their ideas for possible improvements.

    My grandmother has passed on. I loved her dearly and am grateful to her for many things, including her admonishment to stop bossing her. It reminds me to ask and listen first.

    What do you think? What has been important for you in change management?

    ######

  • 3/14/2017 GM sold Opel Unit to France’s Peugeot

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 11th US stocks posted their first down week since January on a decline in oil prices. Oil fell below $50 to $48.49 a barrel and dropped 9.1% for the week.  The S&P 500 slipped 0.4% and the Dow fell 0.5% for the week.  Internationally, Japan rose 0.7%, […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 11th

    US stocks posted their first down week since January on a decline in oil prices. Oil fell below $50 to $48.49 a barrel and dropped 9.1% for the week.  The S&P 500 slipped 0.4% and the Dow fell 0.5% for the week.  Internationally, Japan rose 0.7%, while Europe was off 0.5% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury reached its highest level this year rising to 2.58% driven by expectations of the Fed hiking the Fed funds rate at its March meeting.

    Job growth maintained its steady pace with 235,000 jobs added topping expectations. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7%.  Average earnings rose to 2.8% from a year earlier.  The strong report provides additional support for the Fed to make an interest rate hike at their next meeting.

    The ECB said they will not reduce the bond purchase program they have in place or cut it short despite recent positive economic news from the country bloc. Draghi did state that it’s unlikely they will need to continue past the end of this year.

    South Korean authorities are bringing bribery and corruption charges against the de facto leader of Samsung.

    GM sold its Opel unit to France’s Peugeot.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

  • 3/7/2017 Target Posted Declines in Profit and Sales

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 4th US stocks posted their sixth straight week of gains posting record highs yet again on investor optimism. The S&P 500 rose 0.7% and the Dow gained 0.9%, for the week.  Internationally, Japan was up 1.0% and Europe surged 1.4%, for the week.  The yield on the […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through March 4th

    US stocks posted their sixth straight week of gains posting record highs yet again on investor optimism. The S&P 500 rose 0.7% and the Dow gained 0.9%, for the week.  Internationally, Japan was up 1.0% and Europe surged 1.4%, for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury yield rose to 2.49% up 0.17% over the week as investors expected an interest rate increase from the Fed in March. 

    Recent comments by Fed Chairwomen Janet Yellen and other Fed Governors have increased the likelihood of a March interest rate increase.

    US auto sales were flat in February with discounts weighing on automakers.

    The DOL “fiduciary” rule was delayed 60 days to allow further consideration.

    The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation rose to 1.9% in January, close to its target of 2.0%

    Eurozone business grew more upbeat in February with confidence reaching the highest level since before the financial crisis.

    Caterpillar’s offices were raided by the IRS and other government agencies over suspected misleading information released about its financial documents and exports.

    Snap’s IPO soared, rising 44% on its first day to value the company at $34 billion.

    Target posted declines in profit and sales and said 2017 would be worse than Wall Street expected.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Image courtesy of watchdog.org

  • 2/28/2017 Ep 13. – The DNA of a Highly Engaged Culture

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Michelle Hailey speaks with Dr. Elizabeth Scott and Dr. Linda Klonsky from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. They offer listeners a look at the components that help organizations thrive with constructive cultures, a better understanding as to why it’s important to consider addressing culture issues, and the benefits of being proactive in […]

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Michelle Hailey speaks with Dr. Elizabeth Scott and Dr. Linda Klonsky from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. They offer listeners a look at the components that help organizations thrive with constructive cultures, a better understanding as to why it’s important to consider addressing culture issues, and the benefits of being proactive in dealing with culture changes.

    Dr. Linda Klonsky, Dr. Elizabeth Scott, and Michelle Hailey

    Dr. Linda Klonsky, Dr. Elizabeth Scott, and Michelle Hailey

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    To learn more, please join us for the repeat performance of the DNA of a Highly Engaged Culture: How to Proactively and Successfully Cultivate Change within Your Organization seminar on Thursday, June 15th at 12pm in DC.

    Organization Culture Inventory Diagram

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    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 2/27/2017 Verizon and Yahoo Have Agreed to a New Deal

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 25th US Stocks continued to rise on expectations of business friendly proposals from the President. The Dow has posted 11 straight record high closing days and the S&P 500 posted its fifth straight week of gains.  The S&P 500 rose 0.7% and the Dow rose 1.0% for […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 25th

    US Stocks continued to rise on expectations of business friendly proposals from the President. The Dow has posted 11 straight record high closing days and the S&P 500 posted its fifth straight week of gains.  The S&P 500 rose 0.7% and the Dow rose 1.0% for the week.  Abroad, Japan gained 0.2% and Europe edged down 0.1% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell over the week to finish at 2.32%, its lowest level since November.

    federal-reserveFed minutes from their end of January meeting show the Fed is poised to raise the Fed Funds rate as soon as their March meeting based on an improving economy and the possibility of more spending and less taxation from the new administration. However, investors are still assigning a low probability of an interest rate increase at the meeting.

    Home Depot, HP, Tesla and Wal-Mart posted solid earnings reports.

    Verizon and Yahoo have agreed to a deal that is $350 million less than the original purchase price.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of discover.com

  • 2/20/2017 Retail Sales Rose 0.4% in January from December

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 18th US stocks continued their run of new record highs ending the week at an all time high on strong economic growth and corporate earnings. The S&P 500 rose 1.5% and the Dow gained 1.7% for the week.  Internationally, Japan dropped 0.7%, while Europe was up 0.8% […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 18th

    US stocks continued their run of new record highs ending the week at an all time high on strong economic growth and corporate earnings. The S&P 500 rose 1.5% and the Dow gained 1.7% for the week.  Internationally, Japan dropped 0.7%, while Europe was up 0.8% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year Treasury was relatively flat for the week finishing at 2.43%.

    In testimony on Capitol Hill Fed Chief Yellen stated an interest rate increase could come as soon as the Fed’s March meeting if economic news remains solid.

    Retail sales rose a better than expected 0.4% in January from December and are up 5.6% over the past year.

    US factory output increased 0.2% in January.

    Inflation reached its highest annual pace in almost five years with the consumer price index rising 0.6% from December and up 2.5% over the past twelve months.

    newconstructionUS new housing stats dropped 2.6% on a decline in multifamily construction.

    UK retail sales fell for a third straight month, falling 0.3% in January as inflation has started to deter shoppers.

    Verizon appears back on track to purchase Yahoo agreeing to reduce its purchase price by $300M after hacking revelations at Yahoo.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    photo courtesy of statestreethousing.com

  • 2/13/2017 US Stocks Hit New Record Highs on Solid Corporate Earnings

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 11th US stocks hit new record highs on solid corporate earnings and expectations on tax reductions. The S&P 500 rose 0.8% and the Dow rose 1.0% for the week.  Internationally, Japan soared, up 2.5% and Europe rose 0.9% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through February 11th

    stocks-record-highUS stocks hit new record highs on solid corporate earnings and expectations on tax reductions. The S&P 500 rose 0.8% and the Dow rose 1.0% for the week.  Internationally, Japan soared, up 2.5% and Europe rose 0.9% for the week.  The yield on the 10 year treasury eased to end the week at 2.41%.

    With 360 firms in the S&P 500 reporting earnings, companies are on pace to report a 5% growth in profits compared to the 3.2% expected at the end of 2016.

    European corporations are on pace to post their first profit since 2012 and their strongest growth in five years.

    A judge blocked the merger of insurers Anthem and Cigna likely derailing the deal.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of marketsmorning.com

  • 2/7/2017 Dow 20,000, What Should you Do?

    By Mark Murphy, Chief Investment Officer, Raffa Wealth Management The US stock market index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, hit the heralded milestone of 20,000 near the end of January. With the new record high many investors are asking what does it mean for the future of stocks and what should they do with their […]

    By Mark Murphy, Chief Investment Officer, Raffa Wealth Management

    ct-dow-20000-0125-20170125The US stock market index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, hit the heralded milestone of 20,000 near the end of January. With the new record high many investors are asking what does it mean for the future of stocks and what should they do with their investments?

    Our response to the milestone is, so what? While it is nice to see US stocks hitting new record highs as it means were seeing strong positive returns, a particular round number doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

    Investors instead should remain focused and stay disciplined to their investment plans. Investors shouldn’t adjust their investment strategies based on a new stock market high.  Looking to add more to US stock based on recent performance is chasing returns and pulling back from US stock, if not driven by an unbiased rebalancing policy, is letting emotions get in the way of your long term goals.  Both are market timing and can be detrimental to a portfolio.

    The stock market is continually factoring in new information to value companies and it reflects the collective wisdom of investors around the world. Even though the stock market has reached record highs it does not mean there is nowhere to go but down.  After hitting a record high of 3,000 in late 1991 the Dow didn’t suffer another sustained decline until mid 1998.

    In addition, putting significant weight behind the Dow is misguided as it’s an index tracking just 30 of the largest companies in the US making it possible for just a few stocks to have an outsize impact on the index. Thus it is not providing a full picture of the US stock market. We recommend tracking the S&P 500 or Russell 3000 for a broader view.

    While it’s nice to see markets rise, it’s doubtful that an investor has reached the finish line because the market hit an arbitrary milestone. Investors need to remain focused on their long term goals and not get distracted by the day to day noise surrounding the markets.  By maintaining a disciplined approach an investor greatly improves their chances for long term investing success.

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

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

    Photo courtesy of chicagotribune.com