Forbes Names Best Places in America to Work

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina. IMG: via Shutterstock

There are a plethora of lists naming the best places to live in America, visit in America, eat in America, and even sleep in America. These lists are often lighthearted and interesting, but aren’t particularly meaningful. Forbes took a different approach to this kind of “Best of…” compilation and recently released its 16th annual list of the best cities for business and careers in America, providing valuable information about where the best places to work in America are. Forbes factored business costs, college educated populations, migration to the city and business development in its findings.

It looks like Raleigh, North Carolina is blowing away its competition, taking the top spot after coming in third last year (although it’s worth mentioning that Raleigh sat in the top four other times in the past seven years). Raleigh boasts business costs that are 18% below the national average and 42% of its workforce have at least a bachelor’s degree. The North Carolina city is home to good schools and is currently the sixth fastest growing city in the nation.

Low regulation is another factor that brought Raleigh back up top, as it is one of the easiest cities in the country for small businesses to prosper. The projected annual job growth rate through 2016 is 3.7%, ranking Raleigh seventh best among the 200 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Last year’s top city, Des Moines, Iowa, fell to number two but is still a prize for business owners. The financial services hub has business costs falling 17% below the national average, along with living costs sitting 6% below the national average. According to Moody’s Analytics, the city’s $38 billion economy is projected to grow at a 4% annual rate over the next three years.

The following cities make up the top ten best places for business and careers:

1. Raleigh, North Carolina

2. Des Moines, Iowa

3. Provo, Utah

4. Denver, Colorado

5. Fort Collins, Colorado

6. Lincoln, Nebraska

7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

8. Salt Lake City, Utah

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Nashville, Tennessee

Richard Sarnoff to Take Over as Head of KKR’s Americas Media and Telecommunications Team

Digital Media

Digital Media IMG: via Shutterstock

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), a private equity company founded in 1976, just announced that Richard Sarnoff will be taking over as head of its Americas media and telecommunications industry team. Sarnoff, a former senior executive at European media conglomerate Bertelsmann SE & Co KGaA, will succeed Alex Navab.

This change in management will allow Navab to focus on his new position as head of KKR’s Americas private equity group. He has been co-leading this group alongside Michael Michelson since 2008, and has had to focus even more energy on this asset since Michelson stepped down from this position in May to focus his efforts on investing at KKR.

Richard Sarnoff will also be a managing director at KKR, the private equity firm said in a memo this week announcing his appointment to its investors. Business insiders are speculating that Sarnoff’s experience working in media firms such as Bertelsmann will allow him to thrive in KKR’s Americas media and telecommunications team.

Bertelsmann is a German multinational mass media corporation that was founded in 1835. It is best know for its book publisher, Random House, which is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. This company has published popular books including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girls, and Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black. Sarnoff left the company in 2011 to work as a senior advisor for KKR and sit on the board of directors of music rights management company BMG, a joint venture between KKR and Bertelsmann.

Sarnoff is credited with leading Bertelsmann’s digital media efforts and orchestrating its acquisition of Random House. Sarnoff’s transition into a more prominent role has been seamless, and he is expected to make a big impact at KKR.

Google Using Big Plan to beat Amazon in Delivery

Google Vs. Amazon

Google Vs. Amazon

Though over the years Google has experimented with letting consumers buy goods with services like Google Wallet or Google Checkout, it has now accelerated this strategy with Shopping Express. The new service allows shoppers to buy things from local retail stores through Google, and then delivers them from the physical retail store on the same or next day.

Google executives have set aside as much as $500 million to expand the service nationwide. “You can very much expect that we are putting a lot of money into this and we’re excited and willing to sustain that investment over time as this gets going,” said Tom Fallows, head of Google Shopping Express.

It’s not hard to see why grocery chains may be more enthusiastic to get on board with Google than with Amazon. Amazon Fresh does deliver from some local stores, but its core produce comes from Amazon’s own warehouses. Google Shopping Express, however, sources all its groceries from local stores, allowing shoppers to support their local stores while enjoying the convenience of online shopping. By going local, Google Shopping Express has become a much more appealing partner than Amazon for every local supermarket chain in the country.

“We think that helping close the loop on locally available items is a really important part of making sure Google is the best place to shop,” Fallows said, suggesting that Google may one day show notifications to users searching for a product that is available on Express Shopping with same-day delivery.

New Machine Gives Stray Dogs Food When People Recycle

One new company is solving two problems – people’s lack of recycling, and homeless dogs.

The Turkish company Pugedon, recently placed a vending machine in Istanbul that releases food and water for stray dogs when someone recycles a plastic bottle. The recycled bottles cover the cost of the food, and the box operates at no charge to the city.

A lot of stray animals in this city rely on the residents to feed them. Turkey is known for its large number of stray animals in urban areas. Instanbul has more than 150,000 stray dogs and cats, according to Deutsche Welle. Not only will this machine help the strays, but it will encourage people to recycle as well.

These high numbers have led the Turkish government to draft a law which would require thousands of stray dogs to be transported to a “wildlife park.” Dogs in Turkey have also been the rargets of poisoning campaigns, trying to get the number down.

The Pugedon vending machines aim to give these stray animals a brighter future, while also encouraging its users to get in a healthy recycling habit.

What are your thoughts on this? I think it would be a great machine to add to large cities! Maybe we’ll get one in NYC?

Study Shows that Users Don’t Use Snapchat Primarily to Sext

Snapchat

Snapchat

When most people think of Snapchat, they think of teenagers and college students sexting, right? Well, a new study done by the University of Washington finds that sexting is actually not the main use.

After polling 127 Snapchat users ages 18 and over, 60 percent said they used Snapchat primarily to send “funny content,” and secondly to snap a selfie. Just 14 percent said they’d previously sent sexts over Snapchat, while only 1.6 said they do regularly.

Snapchat is a smartphone app that allows users to send photos for up to 10 seconds that then self-destruct. Users can use filters, type, and draw on the photos. It currently has about 82 million users, most of who are between 13 and 25 years of age, according to Business Insider.

While the sample size is pretty small, the focus of the study was to correct Snapchat stereotypes.

Survey respondents said that the app’s temporary content makes it more fun to share silly or mundane images over Snapchat instead of a text, where pictures are automatically saved. “Snapchat allows for less serious communication,” said one person. Another stated that Snapchat “lets me have more cats in my life because my friends who don’t normally post pictures of their cats on other social media will Snapchat their cats to me.”

While the images do self-destruct, users can take a screenshot of the snap. Snapchat sends users notifications when someone takes a screenshot of their content. However, 5 people admitted to using a separate camera to photograph a message so the user wouldn’t know. I’m not entirely sure how the user would have time to quickly do this, but apparently it can be done.

Do you use Snapchat? And if you do, what for?

Corporate Games Foster Team-Building and a Strong Company Culture

Corporate Games

Corporate Games IMG: via Shutterstock

Tug-of-War, darts, softball. Sounds a bit like an excellent afternoon at camp, doesn’t it? In fact, these are just three of the almost 30 events offered by the Ventura Corporate Games, which recently held it’s 25th anniversary event.

Since 1989 the City of Ventura has been hosting the Corporate Games, which are billed as a “business-to-business teams sports competition in which companies of similar size compete for awards over six weeks of competition.” Essentially, companies throughout the area send teams of employees to compete in a series of events. Some, like softball or basketball, are more athletically driven than others, such as Scrabble or horseshoes, but all give their participants a chance to work together as a team to earn bragging rights for the year.

With more than 10,000 employees participating in the Games from nearly 80 companies, this annual event is no small matter. Why do corporations continue to participate given the cost in both lost labor and actual participation costs?

Likely part of the reason is because of the team building aspect. Team members who participate get to work together and compete in a wide variety of events, all the while feeling as if they are representing their company.   Not only does this build loyalty, but it also develops friendships and communication within the organization.

Additionally, the games are an excellent way to network within the community and build brand awareness, especially when combined with the spirit events like the T-shirt contest, won by The Cheesecake Factory this year, or other charity events.

In the most recent games, Cydcor, one of the participating companies, hosted a Corn Hole Championship charity event on behalf of the event. The Corporate Games drew 70 different corporate teams into the qualifier and final tournament and raised $672.26 for charity. Although Cydcor hosted the event, the company wasn’t able to carry the day in the competition as Amgen emerged as the winner of the tournament.

With all of the potential benefits, as well as a chance to help the community, it’s no wonder some companies are ignoring a little lost labor and choosing to compete. It’s a win-win when you can foster inter-company community building and support great causes, all while having a great time and networking with potential clients or competitors.

One of the Best Ways to Increase Brand Recognition – Improve the Hiring Process

Job Interview

IMG: via Shutterstock

Hiring is one of the most important things that a company does and, given the cost involved in looking for someone new, is not something that companies do lightly.   Many companies spend a lot of time trying to find exactly the right person, going through rounds of job postings, interviews, and offer negotiations. They are careful to craft their image in a way that appeals to the individuals they want to hire and spend quite a bit of time wooing those candidates who are among the best and the brightest.

But what most companies don’t think of is how they appear to the candidates they are not looking to hire. After all, why should they? It’s not as if those people are going to be part of the company.

However what these companies forget is that candidates are still members of the public and every chance a company has to engage with the public can be leveraged into a marketing opportunity. Job candidates will extrapolate from their experience with your company and judge your entire brand along with it.

These candidates are still individuals in the market, and they know other individuals in the market as well. What are they saying after they interview with someone? What do they tell their friends and family about the company? And, more importantly, after the process is over, would the candidate still buy products with the company they interviewed with? A negative interview experience can spread insidiously, poisoning your brand’s recognition- even more so now that interview review sites like GlassDoor are gaining visibility online.

Improving a brand through hiring can also, coincidentally, help with hiring in the future.   According to research from LinkedIn, if people admire your brand “they’re more likely to be aware of your company as an employer and potentially think it would be a good place to work,” which can lead to better candidates and lower starting salaries.

In fact, according to CareerBuilder, 68% of job seekers interviewed said that they would accept a lower salary if the employer created a great impression through their hiring process.

So what can businesses do to improve their hiring process? Here are a couple mistakes to avoid:

Vague job descriptions – Not only is this a bad idea for hiring as it provides potential job applicants with little information about what the company is looking for, but it is also a terrible lost opportunity when it comes to branding. A detailed job description is a great chance to spread branding information about the company and get people excited about your brand- even if they don’t end up working for you.

No response- There is a bit of a epidemic of company’s not responding to applicants or people who have had interviews in a timely fashion. It’s become so much of an issue that CareerBuilder reports that 62% of job seekers don’t feel that the companies they have applied to have been responsive. It is such an epidemic, in fact, that simply replying back to applicants to let them know that the position has been filled is a pleasant surprise and, if you take a little time in your response, a good chance to build your brand further.

Shoddy interviews- Always be prepared for an interview. Remember that job candidates are looking to “buy” a job as much as you are looking to hire them. A pleasant and enjoyable interview experience will help you attract better talent and leave the candidate with a favorable experience of your brand.

Not staying connected with A listers- Choosing a final candidate is always a difficult decision, and there are often multiple individuals who would make a good fit for the job. In this case it is common to promise applicants that you will leave their resume on file and contact them for positions in the future, but how often does that actually happen? These are individuals that you know are great, so why not reach out to them?   Consider reaching out to them with a personal note every couple of months to stay in touch. Even if you don’t end up hiring them, these are talented individuals who will likely find excellent jobs elsewhere- and it’s a great networking and branding opportunity to stay in touch with them.

Facebook Purchases LiveRail

LiveRail

IMG: via LiveRail

Facebook has added to its recent list of big buys with its purchase of video ad platform LiveRail. Following the purchases of messaging platform WhatsApp and virtual reality technology company Oculus Rift, it appears as though Facebook is investing in companies that are on the rise. This strategy is one that will allow the social media giant to capitalize on whatever new path it is that these newer companies are inventing and innovating.

LiveRail delivers video advertisements to several websites and mobile platforms and will prove invaluable in Facebook’s push to dominate digital platforms amongst brands. With video ads first appearing on Facebook a year ago, the company is looking to improve on this development by delivering higher quality and more targeted ads. While LiveRail will operate the same, it will soon be merged more closely with Facebook, allowing both to use their databases to better communicate to users, target ads, and appeal to brands deciding where their stories should be told.

With online, digital advertising becoming a key topic for brands, it’s no surprise Facebook is taking a step to stand out amongst the clutter of social media platforms. The acquisition will provide Facebook with additional leverage, as LiveRail is also the creator of CheckPoint and Video Private Exchange (VPE). CheckPoint allows publishers to block certain types of ads while VPE works as a trading desk for clients to strategically place ads.

It is expected that this acquisition combined with its other investments over the past few months will allow the company to branch out beyond its current platform with all acquisitions containing brands that have an impact on social media and non-social platforms directly.

The Worst States to Be Unemployed In

Mississippi

Mississippi is the worst state to live in if you are unemployed. IMG: via Shutterstock.

Being unemployed is the worst – unless of course you have a job lined up or you are unemployed on purpose. While the national unemployment rate has improved over the past couple of years, 6.3% is still pretty sad. In May of this year, it was the lowest it has been since September of 2008. However, this means that there are still 12 million Americans out of work – which is a lot. And this number isn’t including people who are underemployed or not working 40 hours a week.

24/7 Wall St. used data from The Department of Labor to identify the best and worst states to be unemployed in.

5. Illinois

With an unemployment rate of 7.9%, Illinois has one of the highest in the nation. Job growth is slow (.5%), and nearly three-quarters of the states’ unemployed did not receive benefits.

4. Kentucky

Kentucky’s unemployment rate is 7.7%, and has a very slow job growth rate, at .3%.

3. Michigan

The unemployment rate here is 7.4%, and the job growth rate is .6%. Michigan also has the highest underemployment rate in the U.S., at 15.2%.

2. Alabama

The unemployment rate in Alabama is 7.5% and the job growth rate is .7%. Alabama is the least generous with unemployment insurance, providing residents with only 26.2% of average weekly income.

1. Mississippi

Mississippi is the worst state to be unemployed in. The unemployment rate at 7.6% and the job growth rate is at .9%. What makes this state the worst is the little amount of unemployment insurance offered – an average of just $194 per week.

The best states to be unemployed in include Vermont, Hawaii, Utah, Iowa, and North Dakota.

KKR Pumps $1.2 Billion into First Data

First Data

IMG: via First Data

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co has injected $1.2 billion into credit card company First Data. Looking to reduce the interest payments for First Data, KKR also looks to prepare the company for a future public offering.

KKR, with the guidance of CEO Henry R. Kravis, committed to the payment. Of the total amount, $700 million will be funded from its own balance sheets and $500 million will come from its private equity fund that had been set up in 2006.

Said Kravis, “Our original investment thesis was that First Data was the largest credit and debit card company in the world, and that it would continue to grow if we could get the management right.”

The New York-based KKR first acquired First Data back in 2007 for $29 million. At the time, it was one of the world’s biggest leveraged buyout deals. However, since the recession, First Data has been struggling against consumer spending. At the end of the fiscal year in March 2014, First Data had a loss of $732 million, and the majority of its cash flow was absorbed in servicing the net debt of $24 billion.

The capital infusion would lower the annual interest burden of First Data by $375 million. Including the new investment, many believe First Data will account for almost 16% of KKR’s balance sheet investment portfolio. As a private equity firm, KKR often purchases struggling companies, invests in making them more efficient, and sells the improved company off later.

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