A Workplace for Women

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Across our country, women are building their skills for success in the workplace. More than ever, women are ready to take on new challenges with the education and experience to significantly contribute to their organizations. As business leaders, managers and co-workers, how can we create an environment that supports women?

Create the Right Culture
An inclusive company culture is so important to creating an environment for women to succeed. What does the culture of the company you own or work in look like?
• Is your environment collaborative? Women can often most effectively contribute by working on teams, listening to the needs and concerns of all involved.
• Is there awareness that a female style is allowable and acceptable?
• Can you help women overcome some possible barriers, such as lack of significant experience, stereotyping or preconceptions about women’s roles such as commitment to personal and family responsibility?
• Are there any norms or practices that discourage women to fully participate in decision-making, sales efforts or just in daily work life? Check for indirect messages.

Put Your Commitment Into Action
After evaluating culture, organizations can take active steps to develop, promote and include women in all levels of management.

• Encourage women to present their opinions and ask for what they want
Involve women in planning teams to work with traditional senior management.
• Collect information on your workforce, make goals and benchmark the progress toward promoting women-both in position and exposure
• Make management accountable for diversity as a business objective
• Support mentorship or sponsorship relationships for women
• Review company policies and practices. For example, do you have a diversity & inclusion policy, work/life balance, wellness resources or support telecommuting or flexible work schedules?
• Conduct a salary and benefit analysis of your industry and your company. Being competitive helps to attract and retain employees.

Personal Accountability
Lastly, success is not just luck – preparation is involved. Encourage women to take initiative and be accountable for their success…Let’s take a look at a few strategies that women can use:

• Consistently exceed performance expectation
• Seek out difficult or highly visible assignments
• Ask for feedback and coaching
• Know the value that that they bring to the table and help them to ‘get ready’ to sit there!

Championing women and women’s issues in the workplace can reap a wealth of rewards for your organization. By creating a women-friendly workplace, you really are also showing all of your employees that you are listening and you care…and that is a step toward success!


By Carrie Riggle, Executive Vice President, Human Resources Manager at First Commonwealth

Time to Network




Our Women First team is thrilled to be heading to a sold out mixer on Thursday, February 27th in Pittsburgh hosted by Pittsburgh Magazine! We’ll be celebrating the incredible local spotlight nominees as well as hearing Candi Castleberry Singleton present Networking: It’s not WHO you know, but what they know and say about you.

Be sure to watch for our next mixer with Pittsburgh Magazine coming up in April!


It Will be a Big Year


Did you know that the U.S. ranked #1 among 17 countries on having the conditions that foster high potential female entrepreneurship? According to Gender-Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (GEDI),  these conditions include entrepreneurial environment, entrepreneurial eco-system and entrepreneurial aspirations.

What does this mean for you? According to an article posted by ForbesWoman, it could mean a lot. You don’t want to miss these predictions. Read the article here!

Preparing for the Future

“There seems to be mixed reactions in terms of women business owners
looking to the future. Although fewer than half believe they will still be
managing their business full time in five years, only three in ten admit having created a succession plan while one-quarter each either don’t plan on
passing their business on to others or simply haven’t even thought about it yet. It is noteworthy however that one in seven indicates they need assistance in developing a plan.”
2013 Economic Status of Women-Led Businesses,
First Commonwealth Bank®

In light of these recent survey findings, we sat down with Carly Neals, Senior Trust Officer, to discuss business succession planning.



I know that a business succession plan is critical, but I’m just not sure where to start. What’s the first step I should take?

The first step is the determination of your short- and long-term goals personally and for your business. Outline those goals in a timeline next to their corresponding business or personal milestones.

What are some of the important factors to consider when selecting and cultivating a successor?

Key personnel can be the lifeblood of a business. If this is the case, these individuals must be informed and engaged with the succession plan. During times of change, these individuals must be well compensated and feel like they have a role in the company’s future – with or without the current owner in place. Most importantly, you should surround yourself with an advisory team to ensure that all aspects of the business’s transition are contemplated. We believe that includes a lawyer, an accountant, a valuation professional, a banker and a personal wealth advisor. Together with you, this team can take a comprehensive look at the transfer and its moving pieces to ensure the goals set are

When choosing a successor, what should I take into consideration?

It’s quite possible that you are the best person to determine who your successor should be. However, it is important that the decision is based on factors that will still ensure that you can reach your own personal goals. For example, know-how and experience, monetary resources, time, etc. Know that a good decision should not be based on
emotions or obligation but rather on the careful guidance from your advisory team.

Once a succession plan is in place, what steps should I take to keep it fresh and relevant to the evolving needs of the business?

Life changes – sometimes this means that the timeframe or the goals originally established need to change also.
Reviewing the plan annually ensures that the documents put in place will reach the current goals and objectives for the business and its owner.

How should my plan be structured if I want to pass the business from the older generation to the younger generation?

The answer to this question depends on whether you need the next generation to purchase the business (i.e. you need the money in the business for your own retirement) or you wish to have the business removed from your taxable estate, in which case an estate planning transfer strategy (including gifting) could be put in place. The use of the appropriate advisors can help you clearly identify what options exist and which option is best suited for your situation.

In your experience, how do women approach business succession planning decisions?

Studies show that women tend to seek out the advice of their friends and family when making important life decisions. However, it’s critical to remain cognizant that professionals are a key part of a seamless transition. While you know your business best, your advisory team also needs to play a critical role in building your plan.

A little attention paid to tax consequences today can save a considerable amount in the future. What are some important tax considerations that should be addressed during the succession planning process?

When determining whether a business will be sold or transferred, considering the tax ramifications is imperative. Ultimately, the seller’s goals need to be evaluated then the most tax efficient way to effectuate those goals can be established. It is typically most advantageous to the seller to be slowly bought out. This allows for incremental amounts of the company’s value to come to the seller over a period of years. The key here is to find a buyer that is willing to do this or to provide ample time to plan for this in the situation where the next generation will purchase the business from the parent/owner.

About Carly: Carly Fagan Neals brings more than a decade of experience in banking, wealth advising and trust/estate administration to her current role. Ms. Neals and her team work closely with high net-worth individuals to provide comprehensive wealth management services, including investment management and asset allocation, tax planning, trust services, estate planning including charitable and gifting strategies, customized banking services, insurance analysis, as well as cash flow and retirement projections.

Contact Carly at 412-690-2131 or cneals@fcbanking.com.

FCA Disclosure

It’s Time to Power Up!

We’re teaming up with E+Magnify and PowerLink to bring you the PowerUp Lunch on February 5 at The Rivers Club in Pittsburgh. Christy Uffelman, BCC, MHCS, Partner, Align Leadership, LLC will be presenting “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along: Maximizing the #Generations @Work. Christy will be showing the attendees how to understand the core values and workplace characteristics of each generation, how to best motivate and engage across the generations and how to share best practices with your peers to transform workforce conflicts into growth points.

Click here today to register!

20/20 Hindsight – How to Avoid the Same Mistakes in the New Year!

Words of Wisdom from Deb Takach, Senior Business Banker


With each year that passes, we learn so many lessons regarding how to effectively run and manage our businesses. The old adage stating we should be life-long students holds very true – we’ll only enhance our performance and results if we’re willing to learn from our past mistakes and move forward reflective of our experience! Here are a few life lessons that my clients have experience in 2013; I trust we can all learn from their experience as we move through 2014….

Don’t bury your head in the sand.

To some extent it is human nature to want to put our head in the sand. This is true whether it is on a personal or business level.  No one wants to think about problems or dark clouds which may be looming.  However, avoiding the issue could be a larger concern than the issue itself.  Examine the problem and determine what are the causes and what can you do to remedy the situation.

  1. Make a list of your concerns and issues and derive your own thoughts relative to the solution.
  2. Seek advice from professional advisors (often it is for free) who can provide the appropriate insight.
  3. Be honest with yourself and place into action the appropriate solutions.

Develop partnerships with key individuals.

Developing partnerships is hard work; but it is truely worth the time and effort.  Seek out relationships which can be of benefit to your business with individuals you admire, trust and respect. These are individuals you have may have been dealing with or perhaps people that you personally trust know very well.  Partners for every business should include:

  1. Attorney
  2. Accountant
  3. Insurance Agent
  4. Banker
  5. Industry professionals

You don’t want to try to find these individuals when in trouble – establish them beforehand. It is important that synergies between you and the advisor are strong. For this to occur, time is needed to develop the relationship to assure there is a good fit in personalities, business acumen, and approach. You should be comfortable picking up the phone or making an appointment to see them.  If you are not comfortable having a good and investigative conversation, move on to another individual.

Now for a real life example:

A client contacted me recently regarding an anticipated future slow period in production and needed an increase in their line of credit to possibly cover payroll.  They had been a model client and handled their finances in a manner which was consistant with good business practice. In otherwords our business philosopies were synergized and aligned. They knew this potential slow period was going to be a problem and they had the sense of urgency to address the situation before it became a serious problem.  Because they had developed a relationship with their banker over time through frequent discussions and interactions, the business fundamentals were understood and a relationship of trust was built. Therefore addressing the potential problem upfront by securing an increase in their working capital line easily avoided a more serious problem down the road if the anticipated production slowdown did indeed materialize.

To contact Deb directly, email DTakach@fcbanking.com.

The Economy in Review

A look back at the economy in 2013 by Nina Baranchuk, Chief Investment Officer for First Commonwealth Advisors.


It’s that time of year – everyone is looking back at 2013 with varying mixes of fondness and regret – and laying plans for 2014.  Those of us who dabble in the “dismal science” of economics are doing the same, although probably on a more global scale than most.  The US economy in 2013 had more than its share of unexpected plot twists, cliff hangers and harrowing last minute escapes but in retrospect it left us on the doorstep of 2014 in reasonably good shape.


As the chart above shows, getting any kind of consistent growth momentum in the economy has been tough over the last few years.  Problems both here and abroad contributed to the “two feet forward, one foot back” pattern evident in 2011 and 2012.  In 2013 our own government, in the varying forms of the White House, the Congress and the Federal Reserve, took turns in the lead villain role.  Payroll tax increases, sequestration, reminders that monetary stimulus can’t go on forever and government shutdowns all conspired to keep economic uncertainty high and growth subdued.  Although it’s estimated that the private economy gained 2.6% in 2013, federal spending is predicted to have ended the year down 4.6%.  That definitely hurt.

However, on the eve of the new year, the clouds may in fact be parting.  Although the government will probably hold most of the wild cards again this year, it is an election year and congress typically tries very hard not to rock the boat while the voters are watching.  The Fed has actually started the dreaded tapering of their bond buying program, and unlike the strong reaction when the idea was first announced, most people seem to have gotten over the shock.  The tax increases, sequestration spending cuts and other growth-bashing federal government moves initiated last year have now largely been absorbed by consumers and businesses and will have relatively little additional negative impact going forward.

In fact, consumer savings have begun to rise again just recently which is a pretty good sign that income net of taxes is rising enough to support higher spending.  Housing and stock prices all rose considerably in 2013 which also makes people feel richer and more able to spend.  Since consumers account for 70% of all U.S. economic activity that’s a very good sign.  Similarly, state government budgets, while not all in the black, turned the corner in 2013; revenues are finally high enough to support current spending and allow for some pay down of their collective debt.  That means that after three years of probably stop slashing expenditures many states are poised to take on a little more spending at the margin in 2014.

Nina Chart

(click to enlarge)

As for corporations – the other major economic player – they are also doing fine.  Some people have questioned how we could have had the best stock market returns since 1997 in such a weak economic environment, but as the above chart shows, companies had the earnings growth to support it.  With record profit margins leading to loads of cash in their coffers they have plenty of ammunition for spending and investment as demand for products and services grows.  In addition to all the aforementioned marginal improvements in demand at home, many will also benefit from the bottoming or start of recovery in overseas economies like Europe and Japan.

So what does it all mean for us personally in 2014?  Excepting the possibility of another round of career-limiting options chosen by congress this year, odds are that the consumer and business sectors will continue to gain strength at the margin leading to continued corporate earnings growth, better job markets and another small economic step forward at a slightly accelerated pace.  Economists are forecasting GDP growth for the year in a range from 2.5 – 3.5%.  While not earth shattering, this level of growth would be the best in four years and should set the stage for another year of solid corporate earnings growth and another positive year for the stock market.

Interest rates have already jumped quite a bit higher than the beginning of 2013, but the Fed will continue to hold the shortest term interest rates down near zero, so it will almost certainly be another punishing year for savers.  The biggest question for the year is how much additional pain bond investors will have to endure.  If economic growth is seen as too strong, expectations that inflation is coming back could cause interest rates to rise further, pushing bond values down again in 2014.  With relatively low current coupon payments to begin with, it won’t take much of a rate increase to push many bonds into negative return territory.  Conversely, if growth actually falls back into the 1.5 – 2.5% range again, dis-inflationary expectations could lead to lower interest rates returning.  This is the area where investors will have to pay the most attention in 2014.

Economies, like life, can only be meaningfully measured by what’s changing at the margin.  In that regard, I have fairly high hopes for 2014 – at both the economic and personal levels.  With the bar lowered based on the growth (or more accurately the lack thereof) achieved in prior years expectations for 2014 are set up for a lot more marginal wins and a prosperous new year.

To contact Nina directly, email NBaranchuk@fcbanking.com. 


Information and opinions expressed herein are of a general nature and should not be construed as investment or economic advice. First Commonwealth Advisors does not assume any liability for any loss that may result from a person acting on this information. Relevant information was obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, but First Commonwealth Advisors does not guarantee it to be accurate. Opinions and forecasts are subject to change without notice.

It’s Time to Plan!

Believe it or not, we’re already planning our 2014 Women First Forum, researching venues and keynote speakers to be sure we bring you the best event of 2014!

The best part? We’re now creating micro-forums and bringing them to your area, from DuBois to Johnstown, Greensburg and Murrysville!  Stay tuned in for more information.

What Not To Say

Let’s face it – as women, we tend to fall habit to offering excuses for our lack of confidence. This recent article by Stacey Gordon, author of “The Successful Interview: 99 Questions to Ask and Answer (and Some You Shouldn’t)”, calls out some of those nasty habits and offers advice on how to better position yourself to win.

So whether you’re negotiating pricing for your company’s services or looking to gain a leadership role in a corporation, you may find some pearls of wisdom in Stacey’s thoughts. Check it out here!