Take the challenge

By Anastasia Warren


It’s that time of year again. Time to set the table, baste the turkey, take the pumpkin pie out of the oven, and eat… probably a little too much.

It is a couple of days off from work, a time to see family and friends, and a time to prepare for the approaching end of the year.

It can often seem more stressful than not, trying to get together with loved ones, making sure things are in order, ensuring you don’t miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. Not to mention, leaving work can be hectic and the thought of returning after the holiday can sometimes seem daunting.

This is all true, yes. And most of the time, these logistical and detailed items are what our minds focus on during the holiday season.

What I challenge you to do this year, is focus on the word itself. Thanks-giving.

This holiday, take the time to give thanks. Take the time to appreciate what you have. Take the time to practice gratitude.

Take the time – give thanks this holiday.

I have recently noticed an increase in appreciation at our company. Employees and management both extending gratitude “just because.” Whether it’s thanking the company for being an exceptional place to work, or thanking employees for creating such a cohesive and fun environment – appreciation has been apparent as of late.

Giving thanks often gets lost amid the everyday grind of emails, personal life, and obligations.

And so again, this holiday, I challenge you to not only give thanks and practice gratitude internally, but also to let others know you are thankful for them. Let them know they are valued.

Don’t burn the turkey, but don’t forget about the important stuff as well. And maybe, this mentality can carry on past the holiday of thanks. Maybe, it can be a new way of thinking for the end of the year and beyond.

Take the challenge – give thanks.

Be thankful for the negative that leads to the positive

By Jim Annis, CEO


This year on America’s Got Talent, a young competitor named Drew had a pronounced stutter due to a life-changing, devastating sports injury. Once the “cool kid” at school, he learned humility that he had never known which made him a better person. His comedy routine demonstrated talent and bravery in the face of adversity and earned a standing ovation and the hashtag #TheGoldenBuzzer, catapulting the young comedian directly to the live shows at Radio City Music Hall. Howie Mandel told Drew that “comedy usually comes from a dark place … you looked for the light at the end of the darkness.”

This Thanksgiving, like Drew, we are thankful for the things that give us growth — those things that seem horrible at the time, then help us make us better workers and better people overall. While developing this topic, we all went around the table, sharing our sentiments below. (P.S. We are not being funny.)

We are thankful for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The burden has forced us to learn how to be more efficient. It has required us to know the law and demonstrated that we (well, everyone) cannot be complacent. It is always a learning day with the ACA. We must look at least 18 months down the road. We now have job security and industry security.

We are thankful for the client who calls and screams at us. They challenge us to be better at answering questions and developing new systems, services and solutions. Also, they magnify the positive attributes of the “nicer” client who calls us next.

We are thankful when an employee leaves unexpectedly. Not right away … but soon, the remaining employees step up and say, “Don’t worry, it will be fine, we will divvy up the responsibilities and make it happen.” They demonstrate leadership skills that might have been hidden for years.

We are thankful for our leaky roof. It reminds us that we have a work environment that shelters us, houses a great place to work and makes us realize that bringing all the employees into one building was a great decision. We are all in it together, leaks and all.

We are thankful for the sales deals that do not go through. Sometimes, the more we know about the one that “got away,” the more we know we dodged a bullet. Whew! (And we typically learn a little something too).

We are thankful for the commerce tax (we will pay taxes in the amount of 15 basis points for anything we make over $4 million in sales in our industry). We will make less money, forcing creativity and better decisions, while believing in the vision of our great state of Nevada and keeping revenue here.

We are thankful for the Great Recession. It revealed our true grit and our passion. It reinforced our belief in the saying, “The pig gets fat but the hog gets butchered.” We did better than survive. We thrived and lived to tell about it. It is a gift to be able to run through the hallways and thank everyone that works here in an off-the-cuff fashion and for no particular reason.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

Read the article in the RGJ here.

6 Steps to a Smooth Re-Entry from Vacation

By Anastasia Warren


You just spent the last few days soaking up the sun with your toes in the sand. Or maybe, you took a week to relax at home and get caught up around the house.

Whatever you did, it was vacation – time off while your workplace continued to do business. Getting ready to take time off proved to be busy, and at times even stressful, but you finally made it to your cherished days away from the office.

But now, it’s time to re-enter the workplace. To walk through the doors, say hello to your co-workers, and yes, open your email inbox (if you haven’t been peeping throughout your vacation already).

Time off from work is an essential part to your growth, both personally and professionally. It shouldn’t be an overly stressful event. In fact, it should leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated to begin working again.

So how do you re-enter the work grind, in order to maximize the benefits of your time off and minimize your stress? By following these six simple steps.

  1. Have a calm morning.

Set your alarm a tad early on the day of your return. Make a good cup of coffee. Eat a healthy breakfast. Take your time and maintain a sense of calm. Go over the things you are grateful for and start your day off right.

  1. Get an early start.

After you’ve spent your morning calmly preparing for your day, make sure you leave a little early. Get to the office a few minutes earlier than normal – you can spend this time getting ready to face the reality of your workload and get a jump start on the catch up game.

  1. Take time for yourself.

At the beginning of your day, take an hour or so to go through your emails, go through pending projects, and create a prioritized to-do list for the day. A “catch up” plan is now in place, and you can proceed with less stress knowing that you are not missing anything.

  1. Let others know that it is on your list.

Depending on your position, when you return to the office you may be in high demand. Everyone will want to talk to you about pending projects or needed decisions that they were waiting on until you returned. It’s OK to tell co-workers that it is in on your radar, that it is a priority, but that you are working on numerous things at the moment as you re-acclimate and that you will get to it in due time. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. It’s OK.

  1. Get your workout or other “me time” in.

Just because it’s your first crazy day back, doesn’t mean you should skimp on your routine. In fact, it is essential to re-entering with as little stress as possible. Normally workout on your lunch break? Workout on your lunch break. Normally take two walks around the block a day to clear your head? Take two walks around the block to clear your head. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Let me guess, no ball was dropped, no account was lost – everything is OK, even though you took some time away. Yes, your to-do list seems daunting. Yes, everyone has a new project for you. Take a deep breath and remember that you deserved your vacation, and everything will be back to normal in a few short and busy days.

Good Ol’ Suggestion Box

By Anastasia Warren, Marketing Manager


Sometimes, the best solution is something simple, old-fashioned, and proven to work.

The issue of employees feeling comfortable enough to bring light to issues in the workplace is apparent at most companies.

No matter how open your management team or leadership is, some employees will always find it difficult to bring light to their different concerns.

There are multiple ways to solve this issue, but the one that we have found the most useful, is the good ol’ suggestion box.

Having suggestion boxes placed around the office makes it easy for employees to drop an anonymous note regarding a concern they may have. Make sure they are labeled, well-known amongst your employees, and fully stocked with blank paper and pens.

The most important thing here, is to address the concerns. If employees make the effort to express their different issues, it is important to follow-up and take them seriously in order to show employees that you not only care, but that you can be trusted.

Whether that is through a company-wide email or your next all-staff meeting, make sure to address the issues and reiterate that they are all valid.

Welcome to your new, happier office, where open communication is made easy for all personalities.

Babies, puppies and other Bright Shiny Objects

By Jim Annis, CEO


Imagine a support group with the following characters:  an 11-month old baby, an 11-month old “puppy” and an 11-month old aquarium with several fish, some dead and some alive. They all sit in a back storage room, abandoned by their human “parents.” The conversation goes something like this:

Baby (to the puppy): “When was the last time you were fed?”

Puppy: “It has been so long that the fish are looking pretty tasty.”

Baby (to fish): “What about you guys?”

Fish (in unison): “You know how we are. We can survive a long time … but the truth is there were 10 of us last month … only 5 left. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.”

Baby (to the group as he sighs): All of us were Bright Shiny Objects (BSOs) at one time. I was an only child. Life was pretty good until my “surprise” little sister came along. I wish she would go away, at least for a little while. I remember being happy and loved … don’t you?

BSOs come in many forms. Employees – much like babies, puppies and aquariums – are fun when they are new; then … something happens. Babies become lifelong connections with lots of ups and downs, joys and heartaches. They give and receive love and can enrich your lives. Puppies are companions for over a dozen years and need lots of care, especially in the early months. They are loyal, stand by your side and give you unconditional love whether you deserve it or not. Aquariums are pretty to look at but require work from day one. You cannot take them with you and you cannot leave them alone.

Admit it: Employees possess many of these same qualities. Let’s say you have an employee who has been doing the same job for 15 years. Is that person really doing the job they should? Have you appreciated/ignored their full potential? Who will look at their role with fresh eyes if they don’t know how? Worse yet, maybe they can but you’ve abandoned them for another BSO? How can we teach them to embrace change on all kinds of levels so that they can remain relevant long-term?

As you get a few more gray hairs, you know how much work a BSO project entails and then declare, “I am not willing to do that.” It’s just like having an aquarium. You did it. You learned. It was great because of “this” and sucked eggs because of “that.” You know for sure that you do not want to repeat “that.”

The CEO/BSO Relationship

Innovation is one of my six roles as CEO. BSOs spur positive change. They advance things like thought, commitment and action. Developing a BSO litmus test is crucial. Is it your strategic plan? An innovation committee?

As an employer, you have a responsibility to know what you are taking on before you commit. Sometimes things are bigger, more time-intensive and costly than they first appear. Sometimes the rewards are greater than expected. Employees require a level of your continued devotion.

Do you have a BSO support group happening behind the scenes in your workplace?

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.


Find the article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.