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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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Speculations are riding high on a number of recent Harley-Davidson stock sales.
Speculations are riding high on a number of recent Harley-Davidson stock sales.

Harley insiders unload stock shares

Wall Street chatter about the outlook for Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. is heating up, sparked by the recent sale of millions of dollars of HOG stock by company insiders.

Investors typically get spooked when a company's insiders start selling their stock shares in droves. The natural fear is that the insiders know something about the outlook of the company, and if they are cashing in their chips, they must know that the stock has peaked for the foreseeable future and will soon decline.

However, sometimes insiders sell their stock for personal reasons that have nothing to do with their perceptions about the future of the firm. And sometimes the speculators are just plain wrong.

Regardless, speculators took note when company insiders Tonit Calaway, Joanne Bischmann, John Baker, John Olin and Matthew Levatich, all Harley corporate officers, sold a combined $2.6 million in Harley stock shares on April 27.

On May 1, Harley vice president Paul Jones, directors Sara Levinson and Barry Allen and chief accounting officer Mark Kornetzke sold a combined $819,552 in Harley stock.

That's more than $3.4 million in Harley stock being sold by company insiders in less than a week.

Harley chief executive officer Keith Wandell added fuel to the speculation when he sold $2.6 million of his Harley stock on May 6. Wandell also exercised an option on $1.1 million in Harley stock on May 6.

Keep in mind, Harley's stock increased from $34 to a 52-week high of more than $54 per share over the past six months. After the recent speculation over the sales by the insiders, Harley's stock value dropped to about $47 per share.

So, is Harley's sweet ride over?

Maripat Blankenheim, Harley's director of external communications, pooh-poohed such speculation.

"Since the beginning of the year, Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell has sold 31,907 shares to cover the tax withholding on the vesting of 77,066 shares of restricted stock. He continues to hold these vested restricted shares, net o…

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There may be 1,501 ways to reward employees, but one tops them all.
There may be 1,501 ways to reward employees, but one tops them all.

Employee rewards are nice and all, but ...

The title of a new book immediately caught my eye: "1501 Ways To Reward Employees."

The subtitles state, "Low-Cost and No-Cost Ideas. Best Practices. Latest Trends. Proven Strategies. Ways to Motivate the Millennial Generation."

The author, Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is a leading authority on employee recognition, motivation and engagement. He is the president of Nelson Motivation Inc., a management training and consulting company based in San Diego.

Nelson, who visited Milwaukee last week, cited nine Wisconsin companies in the book for their unique reward strategies:

  • Cerac Inc. of Milwaukee cross-trains employees to ensure that they understand how their work fits into the overall operation. "Thanks to cross-training, we've been able to push sales up 15 to 20 percent per year, while maintaining a high-quality product, delivering performance and providing technical customer service," said Jim Baka, president of the company.
  • Core Creative of Milwaukee celebrates and rewards its exceptional performers in creative ways at the end of every summer.
  • Country Kitchen International of Madison gives its restaurant employees embroidered gold stars to wear on their uniforms after three-month terms of employment.
  • CUNA Mutual Group of Madison gives its "Big Bone Award" to the outstanding members of its leadership team. (It's an actual four-foot-long rawhide dog bone.)
  • Lands' End Inc. of Dodgeville was cited several times in the book. CEO Mike Smith forwards positive letters from customers to specific employees. Lands' End organizes a series of "zany" awards programs for its employees throughout the year, including the "Big Bean Award" for employees who "use their beans" to help the company's mission.
  • The Marcus Corp. vice president of human resources Dick Radell writes a short note on the back of his business card and gives it to a server immediately when he receives exceptional service at one of the Milwaukee company's theaters, restaurants or hotels. Also, employees who work …
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