Thursday AM July 5th, 2007

Late payments on loans rise, delinquencies on credit cards fall...Almost a third of managers polled say businesses are ineffective at rewarding employee performance...Denny's franchisees plan expansion in Houston because of Franchise Growth Initiative...

Figures from the American Bankers Association paint a mixed picture of how people are managing their debt. Late payments on home equity loans rose to a one and a-half year high in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, delinquencies on credit card bills fell. The group's chief economist, James Chessen, says some signs of consumer financial distress will continue in the coming months because of the slump in the housing market. Payments are considered delinquent if they are 30 or more days past due. The survey is based on information supplied by more than 300 banks nationwide.

Almost a third of managers polled by OfficeTeam say businesses are ineffective at rewarding employee performance. In addition to monetary rewards, Caroline McGlann with OfficeTeam says there are other meaningful ways to recognize staff.

"I think a lot of times employers may or may not necessarily know how to reward employees, so a lot of times they just let a good performance go unnoticed. (I) think one of the reasons employers don't do, you know, give rewards or kudos to their employees is that they're not really sure how, and also because they think 'oh gosh, that's going to be expensive'--which is not necessarily true. A lot of times, a simple 'thank you' to someone goes a long way. Also, you know, give the gift of time—people love time off. And I think a lot of managers, you know as an executive, you don't get that yourself. So it sometimes is difficult to remind yourself that, you know, things like that, like a 'thank you' or movie gift card or time off on a Friday—things like that go a long way with people, and I think they just need to remind themselves of that."

McGlann says rewarding employees for accomplishments increases productivity, builds morale and loyalty and helps retain good employees.

"Certainly as an employer you don't want to honor your employees for doing their job, because that's what they're paid for. But you know, if somebody goes above and beyond the call of duty, you know, if someone does something that's not in their job description, absolutely! That's the time to celebrate. You know, also a way to reward employees is give them, you know, what we call 'plum assignments.' You know, if someone's doing a great job, and you have a, you know, an interesting project coming up, they should get the first opportunity to do it. You know, when you reward people, it's not a 'one size fits all' approach. I think that's part of being a good manager is knowing your people, knowing what motivates them. You know, what may be a reward to one person may not necessarily be considered a reward to another person, you know. For instance, maybe a plaque with a photo of the team for one employee may be, you know, a great honor for them. Somebody else might want a nice lunch at a restaurant or time off, so it's all about knowing your people and what motivates them and what's truly valued and respected."

OfficeTeam's survey included responses from 150 senior executives at the nation's largest 1,000 companies, and 534 full- or part-time workers in office environments.

Denny's franchisees Debi and Nick Haq and Assad Shorrosh say they plan to expand in the Houston market because of Denny's Franchise Growth Initiative. Denny's announced the launch of the initiative to accelerate franchise growth in key markets across the country. The initiative allows Denny's franchisees—new and existing—to purchase company restaurants in certain markets and to sign exclusive development agreements in those markets. There are about 488 company-owned units and 1,051 franchised units in the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica, Guam, Mexico, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

Weeks of rain have dampened recreational activities across Texas. Last summer many officials were warning boaters about Texas lakes that were too low and banning fireworks because of the drought. Now some popular lakes might be closed for the 4th of July because they're too full. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department temporarily has closed Lake Whitney State Park, as well as Mother Neff and South Llano River State Parks. Department spokesman Rob McCorkle says revenue flow will be affected if this kind of rain continues and keeps the parks closed. The Lower Colorado River Authority has closed Lake Travis, Inks Lake, Lake Marble Falls and Lake LBJ. Lake Buchanan remains open but the agency is urging people to be cautious of debris, such as tree stumps and other materials washed into the water.

The National College Access Network and the Center for Houston's Future, with the support of Washington Mutual and the Greater Houston Partnership, released a report showing Houston businesses viewing education as a high priority. The survey of more than 1,900 individuals, reported by the Houston Business Journal, says 95 percent of business respondents partner with schools in Harris County, including scholarships and mentoring. The report was funded by Houston Endowment.

The Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau welcomes 13 conventions, trade shows and other events and meetings in August, with 17,100 participants spending as estimated $16.6 million while in Houston. The Retail Tobacco Dealers of America celebrates 75 years of service with its annual convention and trade show August 4th through the 8th at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Presbyterian Global Fellowship's annual conference is set for the convention center August 16 through the 18th. And the American Association of Professional Landmen hold their annual summer NAPE conference August 22nd and 23rd.

The Essence Music Festival returns to New Orleans this week, after it was held in Houston during the recovery from 2005's Hurricane Katrina. The festival, which runs through Saturday, features top-name performers in a nightly celebration of hip-hop, R-&-B and gospel music in the Louisiana Superdome. By day, the Ernest Memorial Convention Center will play host to free empowerment seminars. In addition, artists and other vendors will sell their wares at a marketplace in the convention center. Both buildings sheltered masses after Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans in August of 2005. Storm damage left the buildings incapable of hosting the 2006 music festival, which was moved to Houston's Reliant Park. The Superdome reopened in September of 2006 after about $185 million in renovations.

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