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In This Issue
Defining Your "Edge"
If You Build It, They Will Come
The GPS for Your Company
SCS e-xpress

Sept/Oct  2012

   A Message from Sarah & Chris:

The theme of this issue is "Building Your Brand."

As our industry enters the era of fee transparency where many discussions are focused on fees, it is important that each firm differentiates itself by clearly articulating the value that it offers and building a brand.  


A firm can best differentiate itself by clearly communicating its mission, core values, and competitive advantages.  A firm can attract and retain quality employees by effectively communicating its corporate culture. Each piece of the puzzle a firm communicates builds its brand. A firm strengthens that brand by setting a clear direction of where the company is headed, defining a path to get there, and engaging employees so that they join in for the journey.


We hope you enjoy our free SCS e-newsletter.  Please send us your ideas and suggestions for future issues.  Have a great day!  


 Where We'll Be

National Harbor, MD
10/28/12 - 10/31/12

Sungard Relius Daily Users Meeting
Orlando, FL
11/11/12 - 11/13/12

Transamerica's Administators Conference
Los Angeles, CA
11/14/12 - 11/15/12

Covington, KY
11/29/12 - 11/30/12

Detroit ABC
Detroit, MI

Orlando, FL
02/06/13 - 02/08/13
Savannah, GA
04/22/13 - 04/24/13

Registration for the 2013

Power of 3 Workshop

is now open!

Registration is now open for the 2013 Power of 3 Workshop, which will be held April 22 - 24, 2013 at the ANDAZ Savannah (formerly the AVIA Savannah).  For registration and hotel information, click here...


 Today's Tip

December 2012 is the end of the 2011-2012 ASPPA CPE cycle. To review ASPPA's CPE requirements or to check your own CPE status, click here.
Today's Quote


"If you chase two rabbits, both will escape." 
      - Unknown


Today's Laughs

Only in America...

1. ...can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
2. drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
3. banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
4. we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
5. we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well:
'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.








                                               plane business    

Defining Your "Edge"
Articulating Your Firm's  Competitive Advantage


Customers like to make informed choices.  The better that firms are at describing what differentiates them from other firms, the easier it is for customers to select the service provider that best meets their needs.


SCS often challenges firms by asking them where their products and services fall on a spectrum that we can all relate to - are they more like Walmart or Nordstrom? Our industry has a need for both ends of the spectrum, as well as firms who fall in between. However, a firm cannot successfully offer Nordstrom services at Warlmart prices, so each firm needs to be conscious of where it falls on the spectrum and position its products, services, and prices accordingly. Defining the correct strategy - your "edge" - is a critical step in building your brand, since every strategic decision made should support that underlying strategy. 


A recent Mind Tools article used an approach similar to the above spectrum by comparing no-frills airlines to luxury airlines.  Each business model has a unique way of capturing marketshare, and as passengers, we choose the one that best meets our needs.  The article set out three "generic" strategies - "Cost Leadership" (no frills), "Differentiation" (creating uniquely desrable products and services), and "Focus" (offering a specialized service in a niche market), with the "Focus" strategy then being further split into "Cost Leadership" and "Differentiation."  The article's premise is that these three strategies "can be applied to products and services in all industries, and to organizations of all sizes."  To learn more, read "Porter's Generic Strategies" and see how these strategies can be applied to your firm and help guide you in making strategic decisions.


If You Build It,
They Will Come
Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees


Ermployer branding tells prospective employees what their experience would be like if they worked for your firm. Employer brands are based on reputation, culture, and the company's "story." Firms like Google and Zappos recognize the value of attracting and retaining quality employees and have created strong employer brands. They have crafted innovative ways to conduct work in the office and have departed from the more traditional management styles.  For example, in some Google locations, employees can opt for taking the slide down to a lower floor instead of the stairs, and they can conduct meetings while shooting pool instead of sitting around a table in a stodgy conference room.  Zappos gives each employee a $50 monthly allowance to award to a coworker as a bonus, and then top executives review the pool of candidates who received the bonuses and arrive at a monthly "Hero award" recipient.  The Hero receives various gifts and a mini Hero's parade. 


Most employees today are looking for flexibility and work/life balance as well as emotional and financial rewards.  Physical perks and creativity can go a long way, but for employees to be at their peak, they need to be connected and engaged in the company's goals and direction.  If you build a strong corporate culture, you are likely to attract valuable employees who will perform at their best for your firm.  Angie Hicks, co-founder of Angie's List, has a motto in her office. "We're not running an E.R."  She elaborates, "Nobody's going to die...What we do is important, but let's make sure we can laugh at ourselves now and again." The majority of Angie's employees come from referrals, which is proof that she has created a great place to work. Oh, yes - and for fun, they hold a soap box derby once a year in which the entire office participates.  To learn more about Angie's successful company culture, read the entire interview with Angie here... 


Review Fortune's 2012 list of "100 Best Companies to Work For" and learn why employees flock to these companies. Remember - employees are your most valuable asset. Make sure they know it!


The GPS for
Your Company
Strengthening Your Brand with a Business Plan 


Mission statements, core values, corporate culture, and competitive advantages help define a company's brand. Goals, objectives, and strategies help define the envisioned future for that company. A business plan is the mechanism that brings everything together and serves as the GPS for the company.  It maps out how to get the company from where it is today to where it wants to be, identifying milestones, obstacles, and desired routes along the way. And just like a GPS, a well-documented business plan can help guide a firm when it loses its direction or is struggling to stay on course.


A business plan is a living, breathing document that changes and adapts as the firm and industry change. Communicating the plan is key to getting employees engaged in the company's direction. TPA and Recordkeeping firms that want to differentiate themselves by achieving the ASPPA Service Provider Certification know that having a business plan is one of the best practice criteria required to successfully complete the certification.


Check out "A Business Plan: The GPS for Your Company"  to discover the core questions a business plan should answer and learn how successful firms have benefited from having business plans. 


Need a business plan? See how SCS can help...


What our Customers are Saying...

"We had been in business thirty years without a business plan. SCS provided a framework and a focus to help us create a living, breathing document that is a roadmap for our firm's future."    

     - Ken Ingham, President, Ingham Retirement Group/ABG


"SCS helped us organize and document a comprehensive business plan. SCS's general business consulting experience combined with their knowledge of the pension industry made our business plan specific and relevant. The plan was a critical piece in our successful completion of the ASPPA Service Provider Certification."

     - Craig Suemori, Partner, SI Group Hawaii 

Power of 3 Retirement Industry Update Workshop

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