In Brief Featured

10:10am EDT July 22, 2002

In Brief

By Teresa Dixon Murray

Why read lobby magazines when you could look at this?

Searching for something different for that new office design? You've got the indoor tree and mock fountain. Now what? How about turning one of the lobby walls into a mural?

Local commercial artist Joanne Murray has seen a growing demand for murals in offices and homes where people want a final touch that is far more personal than any wall border from Wal-Mart.

Murray, owner of Murray's Art Studio outside of Wooster, has focused on custom-painted signs for most of her 14 years in business. The majority of her clients are in Canton, Akron and Medina.

In the last year, she's fielded many requests for murals, which can be crafted on walls, movable panels, doors or folding screens. She works independently or with interior designers to give businesses and homes a unique, visually intriguing atmosphere.

"Clients explain their ideas to me, I capture their vision and then bring it to reality," Murray says.

One of her more prominent murals is an 1800s-era street scene on the first floor of The Vault restaurant in downtown Akron. She's also completed murals on walls in houses featured in local Parades of Homes.

While Murray also dabbles in furniture painting, stenciling and lettering, she enjoys the challenge of murals. "I love making blank walls and spaces say something."

Only the serious need apply

The Executive Committee, an international organization known simply as TEC, this spring launched two new groups, one each in Akron and Canton. Its Cleveland chapter, which included CEOs from Cuyahoga, Summit and Stark counties, currently has its maximum 14 members from non-competing companies.

Members use the peer group as a sort of board of directors that helps the CEO make major decisions, gives ideas to boost profits and suggests ways to improve business practices, says Richard Mueller, facilitator of the Northeast Ohio groups.

The simple guidelines limit TEC membership to CEOs with at least $3 million in annual sales and 25 or more employees. Criteria for a newer group, called Emerging Entrepreneurs, requires $750,000 in annual sales and at least five employees. That's the easy part.

  • A CEO must pay an $800 fee to be considered for membership, $400 for Emerging Entrepreneurs.

  • Prospective members submit to a 90-minute panel interview. "We see what value we can bring to them and what value they can bring to us," Mueller says. Many are denied if it doesn't seem they'll fit in.

  • Once selected, members pay a $725 monthly fee for TEC, a $450 monthly fee for EE.

  • The group meets once a month for four hours, along with quarterly resource meetings that last two hours. Mueller says the average CEO continues his membership for 7.5 years.
  • Here are a couple of the big catches:

    • Members must bare all with regard to financials and should expect to follow the advice of the consensus. "We have a strong model of accountability," Mueller says. "If the group recommends you need a new facility, we'll ask you every month how you're doing on your plan to find a new building...If you ask for advice, there's some expectation you're going to listen. If you don't take it, we won't give it anymore."

    • Members may not miss monthly meetings. Vacations, company crises and family emergencies are no excuse. "We've tracked down people in a hospital and had a four-hour conference call," Mueller says. "You can't miss a meeting unless we're coming to your funeral."

    If all of that sounds a bit abrasive, then you've just weeded yourself out.

    Business talk rides the airwaves

    Cable television stations MSNBC, CNNfn and CNBC have plenty to keep the attention of local business junkies. But the expansion of a local radio program may be just enough to give the TV remote back to your kids.

    WERE 1300 AM has increased to two hours its "Focus on Business" program which airs from 6 to 8 p.m. every Monday. The 3 1/2-year-old program was renamed from "Small Business Success."

    Each week, interviews of business owners and people offering business resources are mixed with special reports on Wall Street, the Internet, national marketing and Northeast Ohio business activities.