Q. I'm repping our company this fall at a national trade show. How can I take fullest advantage of my experience there?

Bill DeGenaro, president of DeGenaro & Associates, Inc., which specializes in business intelligence services, gives the inside track:

Trade shows are held for the primary purpose of connecting buyers and sellers, but people with other interests will also be there to answer their questions. They may include trade press, financial analysts, suppliers, new industry entrants and those considering entry. Therefore, activities outside of the display area become very important. Business intelligence people refer to these events as "target-rich environments-everybody who is anybody in the industry will be in a few square-block area for three or four days."

You can get a much larger return for you travel expense investment by using the event to gather useful business intelligence for your firm. The secret to success is planning. Here is a brief "to do list:" 1. Develop a specific list of intelligence requirements. 2. Get the floor map and session schedules in advance. 3. Identify trade press planning to attend. 4. Call trade press reporters and analysts to learn what they are anticipating at the trade show, and meet them there. 5. Look for people representing other interests to add to your sources. 6. Ask for suggestions of other sources. 7. Attend social events. 8. Take good notes: who, when, where and why. 9. Realize your competitors may also be targeting you. Bill DeGenaro can be reached at (941) 906-9244 or [email protected] His Web site is www.biz-intel.com.

Q. Is it better to promote from within or go outside the company for key employees?

Janice Legters, director of marketing at Administrative Concepts Corp., responds:

As a practice I prefer to promote from within. This takes a degree of pre-planning seldom seen in most work environments. Promoting from within is a mindset that takes place at the front-line employee hiring stage. Making sure the culture of your environment is set up to ensure constant feedback, multi-skill training and career path development for your staff. Additionally, teaching an understanding of the industry, not just the company, is necessary if your internal candidates are going to help create new ideas, direction and revenue opportunities for your business. Perhaps the greatest challenge with this is, of course, deciding when to go against this policy. In my experience, most front line employees do not aspire to be the president of the company; however, there are a percentage of those employees' front line and middle management that can offer tremendous returns for the company when given a creative license and challenge of higher-level management. Ultimately, you are making a case-by-case decision based on multiple factors. It is how you tip the scales by pre-planning that can make all the difference. Janice Legters can be reached at (941) 744-1317 or [email protected]

Q. I'm the owner of a small company and I suspect one of my employees, who has been with me for three years, is using drugs. What steps should I take? Joni Korzen, director of the Drug-Free Workplace Manatee Chamber's B.A.N.D. program, answers:

First, identify what it is that makes you think this employee may be using drugs. Have you or his supervisor noticed a change in demeanor, attitude, language or performance? If so, document and date when you or the supervisor first noticed these changes. Keep this information in a locked file.

Then decide how you want to handle the problem. It's always a positive for the company to be able to help an employee, if possible. Everybody wins. If you already have a three-year investment in the employee, it may make sense to give that employee another chance, provided he or she seeks help.

Meet privately with the employee; give him the opportunity to explain his radical changes in behavior. It isn't always illegal drugs that are the cause. Sometimes it's a family problem; it could be the abuse of alcohol or even prescription drugs (an escalating problem since 911).

If you implement a Drug Free Workplace Program that meets the requirements of Florida's Workers' Compensation Law, you have already established parameters of what you expect from your employees/job applicants. A Drug Free Workplace is a company that has a written policy, employee education, supervisory training, access to EAP information and drug testing.

This program will protect your most valuable asset - your employees. It will also protect your clients and customers and you, from liability. It's a very simple and inexpensive process, and it's what the Manatee Chamber's B.A.N.D. Program helps companies do. Joni Korzen can be reached at (941) 748-4842, ext. 130, or [email protected] 

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