“Changing a workplace’s culture requires the right measurements……”

“Culture” is an overused workplace buzzword which can mean many different things.

If company culture is some combination of “how we work, how we treat each other, how we serve customers, and what it is like to work here,” there is a powerful way to move all of these factors in an excellent direction: the right measurements.

The RIGHT measurements, developed in the right ways for the right reasons, can unleash and invigorate a company culture needing a new direction, common language, unified purpose and energized workforce.

Typical measurements include revenue, expense, net income, new accounts and cost of goods sold. How exciting! Are we bean counters or are we leaders, managers and effective team members? There are good reasons to publish these numbers, but do not expect them to move your company culture needle.

What if you found the right combination of measurements to inform, teach, lead, aim, motivate, communicate, reward and celebrate? It is very hard to do, but the impact on culture and results is profound. The wrong measurements can also do damage.

Say you work in a distribution facility. It can be repetitive, physical and isolated work. Today’s measurements are cases shipped, damaged inventory, accidents and on-time deliveries. These are managers’ numbers. They will not move the culture needle except by carrot and stick.

What if you added measurements that communicate strategy, mean something to individuals and provide reference points for individual decision making?

Start measuring (and reporting) customer satisfaction scores. Is the score rising? If so, why? Provide some of the narrative comments from the surveys. Demonstrate the impact of an on-time delivery through a real customer to both explain and thank.

Measure the cost of damaged product in terms that matter to people: what does this cost mean we are unable to do for staff, or, better yet, what does this big improvement in damages mean we now CAN do for staff! What does fewer accidents mean to real people in terms of hospital days and rehab struggles avoided?

Measure how the work of a receiving person (when done well) impacts the work of a picker, forklift driver or loader. Report it and celebrate improvements! Give badges to the best internal service providers as named and ranked by their peers.

When the administrative team meets its goals, how does that affect all? Publish the right results such as re-negotiated vendor agreements, a six sigma project with big impact or getting a better group health and wellness combination – and show how it affects everyone.

Measurements may change due to new company and individual goals. Ideally, they will line up with the goals discussed in individual reviews. There is no better way to start a new strategy than to measure and publish its growth and impact in ways that matter and emotionally connect to people.

The order picker will know how she supports her peers, where she stands on individual measures, how she impacts the success of customers, the tools she has to support company needs (that also benefit her) and where she fits in the strategic plan: WOW!

Do the hard, on-going work to create measurements that both result in good accounting numbers and move the culture needle!

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is president and CEO of CAI Inc., a human resource management firm, with locations in Raleigh and Greensboro, that helps organizations maximize employee engagement while minimizing employer liability. For more information, visit

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Informative Workmen’s Comp article in the Raleigh News and Observer:

N.C. agency will force employers to pay injured workers

RALEIGH — The state Industrial Commission will be taking a tough line next month against uninsured employers it has ordered to settle claims with injured workers: Pay up or go to jail.

More than a dozen employers have been ordered to come to a hearing May 22 and settle a claim that has dragged for years. If the business owners don’t – and can’t settle a portion of the claim – they’ll be ordered to jail. Law enforcement will be sent to arrest those who don’t show up for the hearing, officials say.

The efforts follow a News & Observer investigation this month which revealed that tens of thousands of employers required to protect their workers with insurance don’t. And when workers were hurt, the commission has done little to ensure the uninsured employer paid the workers’ medical bills and wages for missed work. Some workers ended up permanently disabled and reliant on Medicaid and welfare to survive.

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In response to the issues you raised, we now have some concrete plans,” said Pamela Young, chairwoman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the state agency charged with enforcing the workers’ comp laws.

In addition to the May 22 contempt hearing, the commission will schedule other special hearings to deal with lingering uninsured cases. Commission staff reached out to nearly 100 workers who reported they’ve been injured on the job and whose company didn’t have coverage. Most of those cases had fallen through the cracks because the worker didn’t have an attorney to press for collection.

About 125 uninsured employers who ignored the commission’s orders to pay the worker and penalties will be called back, too.

Young said the commission is spreading the word that it is serious about enforcing workers’ compensation laws, which require employers with three or more employees to carry insurance for workplace injuries. The law, which dates back to the 1930s, is supposed to ensure that industry takes care of its own accidents.

Leonard Jernigan, a workers’ compensation lawyer and national expert on employer fraud, said Young’s efforts are a step in the right direction.

“I’m delighted that they are in fact going after this,” Jernigan said. “It’s been greatly needed.”

A big gap

The Industrial Commission has long struggled with enforcement of workers’ compensation coverage. The commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, has the power to demand employers routinely show proof of coverage.

It has instead turned to the N.C. Rate Bureau, a private group that lobbies for insurance companies, to provide information on which carriers cover which employers.

Last month, the Rate Bureau accounted for about 140,000 companies covered through private insurers doing business in the state. Another 117 large companies have been certified with the Department of Insurance as having the ability to pay should their workers be injured.

That leaves a wide gap. The Department of Commerce estimates that as many as 170,000 companies operate in North Carolina that have four or more employees, one employee above the trigger for required coverage. Dun and Bradstreet, a firm that tracks businesses, counts about 174,000 companies with three or more employees headquartered in North Carolina; that number doesn’t account for those based elsewhere.

Young said she has now requested the Rate Bureau send the commission a report when companies cancel their policies or let them lapse.

But Young is still confounded by the prospect of trying to account for all the businesses without coverage.

“If you have a business out there that does not have any intention of having workers’ compensation, how do you capture that?” Young asked. “How do you find these people?”

In plain sight

Some of the businesses forgoing workers’ compensation duties are in plain sight, compliant with other agencies that deal with businesses.

G&J Transport, a trucking company in Beaufort County, is one of the companies whose owners face possible contempt charges next month.

Gregory and Joyce Nixon, the company’s owners, decided to drop their workers’ comp policy in October 2004 to cut costs. Twelve days later, a driver died in a crash. And, in 2007, while the company was still without coverage, another driver died on the job.

Through those years, the company was registered as a limited liability corporation with the N.C. Secretary of State. The Nixons paid taxes, and they registered a fleet of trailers with the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Gregory Nixon has declined to comment. He could not be reached Wednesday.

The commission fined the Nixons in 2009 for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance. They owe $50 for each day without coverage, which amounts to $41,500.

A long process

Young says she has been working for more than two years to establish a contempt process at the commission. In December 2009, Young said, she began meeting with local judges, sheriff’s deputies and magistrates in Wake County to come up with the right forms and procedures when the commission forces an employer to jail.

Still, the program wasn’t in place. And until the N&O report, there was no immediate plan to start.

Tracy Curtner, the former assistant attorney general who was assigned to the Industrial Commission, said she had already created a contempt procedure in 2008 when she worked for the commission.

“The process was set and ready to go,” said Curtner, now in private practice.

Locke: 919-829-8927
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Thinking of Selling Your Home?

So, thinking about selling your home? Just throw it on the market and see what happens.

Wait for it. There it is—the sound of Realtors all over the Triangle coughing up their breakfast at the very idea. You’re courting disaster with that willy-nilly approach, but, unfortunately, that’s how many would-be sellers start out.

“If you haven’t taken care of the condition of your home before you list it, you’re in trouble because you’ve already shown your property to people looking online, and they’ve already discounted your property off their list because you didn’t do the things up front,” says Keith Bliss, owner of The Bliss Real Estate Group, a team with Keller Williams Realty in Cary.

Isn’t that what feedback is for, you ask. Why not fix the things you get negative feedback on and ask the potential buyers to come back? It won’t work. Your dirty, cluttered house with its cooking odors and loud colors (those are the biggest buyer turnoffs) gives off a bad vibe. Your buyers are moving on.

The truth is, you’ve got to put your best foot forward the very first second your home is on the market. In 2011, nearly 600 real estate professionals nationwide were surveyed (HomeGain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey) to discover which do-it-yourself improvement projects brought the biggest return on investment. Here are five, with good feedback from both local sellers and Realtors.



Bliss recently listed Kristy and Craig Brown’s 1,700-square-foot Apex home for $225,000, but not before the couple, with two young sons, completed a few assignments. 

“We were fortunate to find a great contractor who did pretty much all of the things we needed to get our house market-ready, which included finishing projects — little things like putting a railing on the front porch, replacing the front steps, replacing recessed lighting fixtures that were outdated, painting and removing outdated florescent lighting in the kitchen and master closet,” says Kristy Brown.



Donald and Janice Jones, formerly of Apex, spent about $1,500 to get their home market-ready. The majority was spent on painting. 

“I painted outside and inside but also had the help of a professional painter,” says Donald Jones. “The painting bill was about $1,300 but that covered all the doors, door frames, base boards and the majority of rooms. I do think it helped. The house showed as if it had been kept lovingly and it was. I think that makes an impression on the buyers and helps them envision doing the same.”

The 2,100-square-foot Jones home sold fast, spending just 33 days on the market and selling for nearly full price at $234,000. “Janice and Donald were very diligent in a minimal amount of time with lots of elbow grease and effort,” says Mary Krabacher, the listing agent for the home and a Realtor with Fonville Morisey/Long & Foster Realtors.



This costs nothing but time, a little money and probably a sore back. 

Getting a house clean is one thing. Keeping it that way is an entirely different matter. Both the Joneses and the Browns moved out of their homes before putting them on the market, avoiding that issue altogether.

The Joneses also paid for a deep-cleaning once they moved out. The Browns moved in with family and cleared out all the kids’ toys and personal family items but left the big furniture for staging purposes. “Not having to worry about getting the dogs and kids loaded up and cleaning up whatever messy toddler craft project we might be working on at that time is a big relief,” says Brown. “We wanted to make the viewing of our home as convenient and easy for the buyer as we would want it to be. We think this will help sell our home, hopefully.”

One word of advice on this front, too. If your home is not clean and ready to show, then don’t show it, says Bliss. You can say no.



“The key piece is that people today want to see homes look like a model home,” says Bliss. In other words, don’t live in your home like you usually do. 

Most would-be buyers search on their own before asking to see a home, using photos to make their decision. “Photos are extremely important because you want that buyer to say ‘Wow; I want to see this one,’” says Bliss.

When it comes to staging, Krabacher suggests arranging furniture in a way that maximizes space. You may have to put oversized pieces in storage. You want each room to look spacious, clean and welcoming.

Bliss advises clients to invest $100 or less in a nice bedding set for the master bedroom. People like to come into a home and see a really nice master bedroom,” he says.



Krabacher received great feedback on the Joneses yard. And Craig Brown laid mulch one morning in 19-degree weather to get his home on the market. Landscaping really is important. 

“People are looking at curb appeal right from the street — from edging your property to fresh mulch,” says Bliss. “You can’t just throw a little bit of seed out there either. You’ve got to really get a professional out there getting your yard looking really good. That’s another expense, but how many people are actually going to take 12 to 30 hours to do their landscaping before the house goes on the market?” One compromise: Get the major stuff out of the way and then work on it yourself.



What if you’ve spent a little money and a lot of time and your house still isn’t selling? “If you get ten showings with no offers or you go two weeks with no showings, and we’ve taken care of the marketing and you’ve taken care of the condition, then we know its price,” says Bliss. 

“Really what it comes down to is price, condition and then location,” Bliss continues. “It used to be location, location, location. But the market has shifted so much that buyers are really looking for the best price first. I’ve got agents coming from further and further away to show my listings than ever before.”

Krabacher agrees that sellers must price appropriately. The Joneses did so and had multiple offers, not common in this market, but they still had to negotiate. “While this home sold for near asking price, the sellers agreed to pay towards the buyers’ closing costs and a home warranty,” she says. “Qualified buyers are enjoying the current interest rates, available inventory of homes and are looking for a good deal.”

This blog is moving – please click on the title

Hello all my friends, we have decided to relocate our blog to a new version.  Please click on the title to go to the new blog and make sure that you “follow our blog” by entering your email in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks in advance!!!!!!!!!!!

This is me thanking you for following our new blog.

Blue Ribbon Renovation, Blue Ribbon Residential, Blue Ribbon Construction, John Sperath, Design Build Remodeling, Remodeling Raleigh, Remodeling triangle

STAR Awards banquet tonight

Tonight we’ll find out which of our ten entries into the Remodelers Council STAR Awards will be selected as “best of the best”.  We’re excited, results posted tomorrow.  It will be a GREAT time for all.

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Cary Bonus Room Addition – Outside nearly complete

The exterior of the Cary Bonus Room project is nearly complete.  Our goal was incorporate the original design into the upper portion of the front roof gable.  We raised the gable vent up to better vent the attic space.  Check out the before and after photo.

Before front photo
New front look

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Sometimes you just have to share

On my trip I took this fast photo at a stop light.  You’d think that is should be on a car from the south but it was actually on a car with a NY license plate.  Go figure.  Maybe the driver is actually a south to north transplant with deep roots.  More updates on the projects tomorrow, photos pending on those.

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Drywall and stucco update on the Cary Bonus Room Project

And we have stucco.  The scaffolding came down today and all that is left to finish is the chimney which is on tap for tomorrow unless it rains.

The drywall is being finished.  The second floor is second coated.  One more coat tomorrow and then sanding.  They were finishing the drywall patches in the garage today.  Next week ceramic tile and interior trim – we are now 30 days from completion.

Below is a pretty cool progression of the outside

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