On payday, Dale Foland opens his check with a smile that says, after 35 years, the thrill of running his own business is as fresh as ever. He is not a high profile character and he is not as polished talking about his business as you might expect of a seasoned CEO. But theres a charming innocence about him as he nervously shuffles items on his desk during an interview with a reporter.
When the topic settles on company growth, he becomes more animated. The businesswhich leads the industry as an extruder of continuous rubber seals and gaskets used in insulated doors and windows, insulated glass and weatherstrippingis divided into five operating divisions: Lauren Manufacturing, Edgetech IG, Fluorolast, Lauren/Meteor LLC and LMI Custom Mixing.
The company recently signed a contract with Daimler-Benzbefore the merger with Chryslerto make door seals for Mercedes and Volkswagen. The window insulation made by Edgetech and Fluorolasts flexible paint-like coating are starting to create excitement in their markets.
Fluorolast has been in development for 15 years and should turn a profit for the first time in 1999. Lauren International also is developing two new products that Foland wont say anything about. One of them, he thinks, will do for Lauren what Scotch Tape did for 3M.
When asked about his work philosophies, he replies, Train, train, train and take care of the customers regardless of the cost. If you establish trust, never betray it. Those types of things.
I dont have anything you could write a book about. I guess its instincts. ... I always say, Give everybody a reason to get up in the morning.
Yellow Pages advertising works.
According the Small Business Administration, the average rate of business dissolutions over a six-year period is 62 percent. Less than 20 percent of businesses advertising in the Akron Yellow Pages six years ago have disappeared.
What those successful advertisers learned can help you predict the success of your ad and make it better. Here are seven lessons.
1. Bigger is rarely better.
The most successful ads in competitive categories were close in size. Where one ad was larger than all the others, it was later reduced or eliminated in almost 80 percent of the cases.
Of all the ads in the Yellow Pages six years ago, almost 90 percent were one-quarter page in size or smaller. Less than 2 percent were full page ads.
2. Smaller equals more vulnerable.
Advertisers with smaller sized ads were the ones most likely to disappear or go out of business. Seventy percent of the businesses with one-sixteenth page ads (the smallest size available) in the book six years ago are now missing. But the size of the ad isnt necessarily to blame. In most cases, businesses with larger ads are more financially stable. Insufficient capital, a primary cause of business failure, may be what led to the disappearance of many smaller advertisers.
3. One is the loneliest number.
Having no competition had a negative impact on advertisers, whereas heavy competition did not seem to affect the success rate. Only 30 percent have kept their ads in categories where there were no other advertisers.
4. Yellow Pages readers are colorblind.
Most of the ads that have remained the same or increased in size were printed in simple black ink. Of these ads that were successful, less than 2 percent were printed in full color. A study conducted by the National Association of Directory Marketing proves that conservative use of color is more appealing to Yellow Pages readers. Why pay higher rates to get a lower response?
5. Dont accept a Trojan horse
Despite designing billions of dollars worth of Yellow Pages ads for others, Ameritech hires professional advertising agencies to develop its own ad campaigns. This alone should convince you to seek outside help. Keep in mind that what you wantthe least expensive ad that takes away the most possible business from your competitorsis the exact opposite of what a Yellow Pages publisher is trying to accomplish.
Anything that threatens the survival of your competitors and the renewal of their advertising is a major threat to the publishers profits. An independent ad agency is only concerned with your success.
6. What you dont know (or understand) can hurt you.
Newspaper and magazine publishers generally provide rate sheets to their advertisers. This clearly shows ad costs as well as available discounts and when they apply. Ameritech does not.
Your Yellow Pages sales rep discusses your advertising needs with you, makes recommendations and provides rates accordingly. To qualify for discounts, you must increase your ad size. Your sales rep may be focused more on short term gain than maintaining a long term relationship with you. This means you could end up with a larger ad than you need or can afford. There are many things you can do to reduce this risk.
n Ask your rep to send you printed information before scheduling a face to face meeting. Ask to be provided with full price rates for each of the ad sizes printed in black ink only, black and one color, black and two colors, three colors and full color.
n Ask for the exact closing date. Some reps will imply that you have much less time than you really do. They are in a hurry to get you signed.
n The number of directories delivered is not the same as the actual number of households and businesses receiving them. Statistics can be manipulated to prove different points.
n Read the fine print. Your ad is not guaranteed any specific position. The publisher isnt liable for errors or omissions. So make certain that you inspect and approve every detail on the final proof of your ad.
7. Keep your expectations realistic.
If your research shows that an average of 50 area residents purchase the product or service you sell each month, a Yellow Pages ad will not increase that. Television and other forms of advertising can work to create an interest in something where none previously existed. But a great Yellow Pages ad helps you get the attention of someone already looking for what you are selling.
Commitment to excellence
Goodwill Industries of Akron received its seventh consecutive Three-Year Accreditation award from CARF, The Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission. Goodwill was recognized with the highest level of accreditation possible for Employment Services, Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation Services, Employee Development Services and Community Employment Services. Donald E. Galvin, Ph.D., president and CEO of CARF says, Goodwill Industries of Akron demonstrates quality rehabilitation programs, measured by rigorous standards.
Do it for the needy, if not for the government
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is looking for people to help those with special needssuch as low-income taxpayers, disabled persons, non-English speaking and older taxpayersto prepare and file tax returns, perform clerical work, publicize VITAs free service, and other jobs. Hours are flexible, (2 to 4 hours weekly through April 15), and the environments (libraries, community centers and churches) are nicer than your usual federal office. The time commitment is brief and the personal satisfaction is great, says Taxpayer Education Coordinator Rachel Ragan. For more information, call (513) 684-2828.
While news hounds feed frenetically on the tidbits of Clintons peccadilloes, Connie Bloom, owner of Remember Me Biographies, is busy documenting the not so infamous people who hire her to write and typeset their life stories in a hardbound biography that comes complete with photographs. Grandpas tall tales and grandmas gentle recollections are their greatest legacies, Bloom says, and these are things that fame and money cannot buy. There is, of course, a price for thisbetween $1,500 and $2,500, which is considerably less than the bill Clinton will ultimately receive. How to reach: Remember Me Biographies, (330) 836-0918
Even number crunchers need to get out
In a recent Accountemps survey, CFOs at companies with more than 20 employees were asked: How important is networking with other professionals in your field or industry in furthering your career? Eighty percent of the 1,400 respondents said networking with others in their field has been instrumental in their professional success. Heres how it broke down:
- Very important: 41 percent
- Somewhat important: 39 percent
- Somewhat unimportant: 13 percent
- Not at all important: 6 percent
- Dont know/no answer: 1 percent
Trades labor shortage
The Akron-Canton chapter of The American Subcontractors Association will address the labor shortage in the construction industry at its meeting on from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at Tangier Restaurant. Association leaders and trade instructors from vocational training departments of participating school districts will be guest presenters at the event. Call (330) 753-9958 for more information.
The Western Reserve Small Business Development Center for Women is offering no-cost business counseling for women, and a variety of classes ranging from financial statements, accounting software and information systems to business communications, marketing, financing and government procurement. For course and counseling information, call (330) 972-5592.
The Employers Resource Council, which is based in Cleveland and serves all of Northern Ohio, has launched a new dream team of 20 firms that offer discounts on a wide range of human resource management services, including technology, financial and environmental. Each provider has a market presence in Akron and Canton, and services the ERCs entire 22-county region. To get the discounts, all you need is a membership in the ERC. For information, call the ERC at (216) 696-3636.
Prominence Homes Inc. has been named 1998 Builder of the Year by its peers in the Home Builders Association of Greater Akron.
Kimberly Walkup has opened Colonial Curtains and Interiors at 140 W. Washington St., Suite 4, Medina.
ASW Services affiliates ASW Logistics Inc. and Gilchrist Polymer Center Inc. have been registered by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. to the ISO 9000 Series Standards at seven of their operating locations.
Akron-based The Urda Co. has been named agency of record for the National Truck Equipment Association.
The Flood Co., a producer of paint additives and finishes for exterior wood, has announced the acquisition of Tropitech Coatings & Research of Naples, Fla.
Lou Ciraldo is now sole owner of Summit Construction Co.
The Summerfall Cos. has been named to the 1998 Weatherhead 100 as one of Northeast Ohios fastest growing companies.
The Akron Community Foundations board of trustees approved grants totaling $687,094 at its quarterly meeting.
The Western Reserve Bank has opened for business at 4015 Medina Road, Medina.
This is a true story about a guy named Frank who was struggling to build his business. Aw heck, he was struggling just to pay the rent while a whole lot of other bills werent getting paid at all. He was just months from going under, though he didnt know it at the time.
All he did know was that his mentors, advisers, friends and business associates kept telling him: Frank, if you want to grow, you cant do everything yourself. You need to give your employees a chance to grow too, and if you take a break from the daily details, youll be amazed at what your employees can accomplish on your behalf.
So last winter, when the company needed a new delivery driver, Frank saw it as a chance to delegate. He handed off the task to his trusted warehouse manager. Lets call him Roger.
Roger had never hired an employee before and didnt know much about the processwhat questions he should and couldnt ask, what qualifications he should seek among the candidates.
Roger had a friend who had recently been laid off. Figuring anybody could drive a light delivery truck, Roger interviewed and hired his friend, Les.
Now you know the cast of characters:
- Frank, the earnest but struggling owner;
- Roger, the able and trusted manager;
- Les, the new driver.
Theres a fourth charactera nameless insurance agent who Frank contacted as soon as Les was on the job. What the insurance agent found when he tried to add the new drivers name to Franks business policy is that Les had a less-than-sterling driving record. In fact, it was so tarnished, he was uninsurable.
The insurance company made Frank sign a document stating that Les would never be allowed to drive any company vehicles.
It was quite a lesson in delegation; the first time he actually hands off an important job, it gets botched up.
I should have done a pre-employment screening on the driver, Frank says in hindsight. When we found out about his driving record, I should have taken care of the problem fast and not tried to be the nice guy. The minute I learned he was uninsurable, I should have let him go. I guess I learned you cant be a nice guy to everyone. I hired him as a driver, but I couldnt use him as a driver.
Instead, Les went to work on the loading dock and in the warehouse, while Rogerthe guy who hired himstarted making deliveries.
It might have all worked, but Les started to feel guilty; he had taken over the job of the guy who hired him and caused the struggling owner a whole new set of headaches.
Thats why Les was always looking to do more. Which brings us to the day Les found himself alone on the loading dock with one truck idle in the bay and another waiting to load up.
Les hopped behind the wheel of the idle truck and moved it out of the way. Somewhere in the three minutes the whole transaction required, Les managed to bump intoand damagethe corner of another companys truck.
The accident gave Frank a reason to get Les off the payroll immediatelyan act that was probably a relief to everyone involved.
But Franks problems continued. He couldnt turn in the claim to his insurance company, so he asked an acquaintance in the auto body repair business to look at the damaged truck.
The body shop gave the guy an estimate of $947, Frank says. Not a lot of money for a commercial fender bender perhaps, but more than Franks little business could absorb in its weak financial condition.
I wrote out the check to the body shop, Frank continues. But when the owner of the truck came to pick up the check, he refused it because it wasnt made out to him personally.
Now feeling like he was being hustled, Frank called his attorney. That 12 minutes cost me some bucks, Frank says. The guy [who owned the vehicle] made it clear he was using the money to go on vacation. My attorney told me there was nothing we could do about it.
The truck never did get fixed.
It burned me, seeing that truck every day ... knowing how badly we needed that money, Frank says. That $947 may as well have been $9,000.
In retrospect, Frank says, Its a matter of principle and business ethics. That situation helped me learn more about [me] than anything, and I ask myself, Why am I like this?
Today, his company is closed and liquidated, and Frank is relieved to be on somebody elses payroll. Roger found a new job quickly enough too, and we dont know what Les is doingthough were reasonably sure it wouldnt involve mileage reimbursement.
For what its worth, Frank learned some important lessons about the responsibilities that come with delegation, and about the owners careful balancing act between concern for the employees and the business.
If this were really a fable, you would now get the moral of the story. And it might go something like this: The best way to look out for your employees is to look out for the business first.
But since this is a true story, and fables, by definition, are not, all thats left to say is that Franks painfully learned lessons have probably helped him become an ideal employee for some lucky owner.
Editors note: The names in this article have been changed as a condition of telling this story. The facts, however, are true, and occurred between late 1997 and early 1998.
What if you could get your packaging and assembly needs met expeditiously, get quality work for a competitive price, and provide work opportunities for people with disabilities all at the same time?
It may seem like an easy question, but the fact is, Windfall Industries is providing just that, and executive director Jeff Johnson is finding its not such an easy sell.
Windfall Industries mission is to find employment for those enrolled in the Adult Services Program of the Medina County Board of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities.
Johnson says competition from for-profit contract packagers who perform the same jobs makes it tough for nonprofit agencies like Windfall.
In these business times, were just viewed as an alternative source, he says. We dont see any preferential treatment because of who our employees are. Businesses are bottom line conscious, and if we cant do jobs at a competitive price, theyll go somewhere else.
That in combination with Windfalls charge to be a self-sustaining nonprofit separate from the MRDB makes the agencys administration more bottom line focused. Johnson and his staff are not employed by Medina County, but by Windfall itself, which reports to a board of directors. Windfall, incorporated in 1963, is a holder of the Department of Labors Commensurate Wage Certificate, which empowers it to serve as an employer for workers with disabilities.
All those challenges and realities drive Johnson to worry about where Windfalls next customer will come from.
Were always trying to develop core customers, where its not just a one-time job theyre giving us, Johnson says. We realize that to be self-sustaining, we have to do whatever it takes to offer quality services, or there will be no opportunity to employ those individuals.
By taking whatever steps are necessary to produce quality work at competitive prices, Windfall has earned preferred supplier awards Diebold Inc., for one. Still, Johnson frets and aggressively targets packaging and assembly contracts to ensure the nonprofits growth.
Some of those contracts include packaging parts and repair kits for automated teller machines manufactured by Diebold, fitting o-ring parts on automobile headlight parts for Par Industries Inc. and assembling more than a million tea-lights a year for A.I. Root Co.
Jobs of this sort are brought into the Windfall workshop a 10,000-square-foot facility where package and assembly kits are split into steps that can be accomplished by individuals with varying degrees of disability. Windfalls nondisabled supervisory staff teaches the workers how to accomplish the tasks, and implements assisted or adaptive technology to help them complete the jobs faster or better.
When it comes to cost, Windfall prices a job much like any other packager. Product samples are acquired, then a task analysis and time study are completed to set a direct labor rate for each of the separate steps. The combined piece rates are tabulated for total direct labor. Overhead is also included in the formal quotation when, like any other business, Windfall must purchase special equipment for specific jobs.
Were normally competitive in price, and the only time it gets difficult for us is when its a very large volume job and our competitors have equipment that allows them to automate a portion of it, like a poly-bagging machine. They can get their price down a little lower, Johnson admits.
Windfall must also determine whether the contract is long-term and if other job orders from that customer are likely. That question came up when Plastipak Packaging Inc.s research and development department approached Windfall about a project in which 2,000 bottles would need to be sprayed lightly with a low-tack adhesive to prevent the glass from getting scratched in transit. Special transport boxes also had to be constructed.
We had to look at the possibility that, if this was a one-time-only job where we jumped through hoops to meet their needs, we must add some overhead to that, Johnson says. If it was going to be a job that would lead into more work, that was a different story.
After Windfalls bid was accepted, Plastipak boosted the order to 24,000 bottles, which had to be completed in the same time frame as the 2,000 bottle order. To meet the customers volume and deadline requirements, members of Windfalls sales staff rolled up their sleeves and got involved to help get the job done.
We bid on jobs, big or small. If they can be done 100 percent by individuals with disabilities, great thats the bonus. If we need to step it up and bring in nondisabled workers, weve done that, too, Johnson says. We may split a job, with 50 percent disabled workers doing some of the steps and nondisabled doing the other 50 percent. If we didnt accept that job because we dont want to bring in nondisabled workers, the people with disabilities wouldnt have that opportunity to do the other 50 percent of that job.
Most of Windfalls contract packaging assembly is done in house. Some companies require that Windfall comply with their individual Quality Standards and ISO 9000 standards, but such certification can be too costly an endeavor for a nonprofit. So, Windfall hosts period audits where customers can come into Windfalls facility to quality inspect work being expedited on site.
How to reach: Windfall Industries (330) 764-8988, Ext. 253
Are you having trouble getting financing for the equipment you need to grow your company? Leasing is one alternative to purchasing pricey equipment outright, and a solution when the bank says no.
Sure, youre going to have to make payments similar to those you would have made had you bought the equipment, but in the short term, leasing equipment everything from computers to back hoes keeps your capital fluid. Your money wont be tied up in thousands or millions of dollars of assets, when all you really need is the use of the equipment, not ownership.
Steve Fuller, owner of Alpha Graphics in Akron, leases large copiers and digital color printers from companies such as Xerox, Cannon and IBM. He says that along with not having to outlay large amounts of cash, he leases for what he calls the obsolescence factor.
To stay on top of the rapidly changing technology he deals with, he leases certain equipment. When it becomes obsolete, he contacts the manufacturer and arranges a new lease with updated equipment.
Its not like they give you something for nothing, he says. They factor all the costs into the new lease.
This option saves Fuller the time of trying to get rid of obsolete equipment.
Leasing has allowed me to expand faster than I would have otherwise, he says.
The Equipment Leasing Association of America reports that new leasing business has increased 32 percent since the first quarter of 1998. The same study concludes that eight out of 10 American companies now lease some portion of their equipment.
Leasing companies nationwide, not just us, have been working with small businesses for the past 30 years helping them grow by letting them obtain the equipment they need to do what they do and grow their business, says Anthony Polito Jr., executive vice president of Preferred Capital Inc. in Brecksville. Our bread and butter customer is a company with 50 or less employees.
Preferred Capital leases everything from mowing equipment for landscapers to office furniture and restaurant and medical equipment. The firm is even trying to purchase an armored car for a client.
What you find is that theres a lot of equipment that the consumer or even small business person, in the normal course of the day, would look around and not realize is leased, says Jeffrey Eakin, senior vice president of Preferred Capital. What I call very, very ordinary things.
A common misperception about leasing companies is that they are like rental houses, where the customer comes in and picks equipment from what is available. In reality, customers choose what equipment they need and from which manufacturer. The leasing company then steps in, purchases it, and leases the brand new equipment to the customer.
What leasing does is allows the end user to enjoy the equipment and pay small monthly fees, hopefully equal to or less than the generated profit or savings, Polito says.
In many cases, leasing companies are taking the place of banks, but without many of the hassles associated with applying for a loan. It happens much faster, says Polito. Generally speaking, the terms are far more flexible. The ability to structure a transaction to meet the customers needs is far easier for an equipment leasing company than it would be for a more traditional lender.
Another advantage is the leasing companys ability to bundle the costs of installation, warranties, insurance and other add-ons into the lease, making things simpler for the end user.
Polito enjoys watching his clients businesses grow, in part because thats his job, but also because he has been there, as owner of King Cantina in Hudson.
The bad news is, in our situation, is often times we lose a customer as they get more and more successful, because at that point, they are buying more expensive equipment and more traditional lenders step in.
Revenue streaming 101
An Ohio landscapers business operates, on average, seven months a year. To operate his business, he needs a $10,000 mower.
Under traditional financing, the landscaper would have to make 12 monthly payments a year on the mower. With the revenue streaming option, he can make payments based on his monthly income, which may be heavier in some months and nonexistent in others. Many leasing companies offer a five and seven program, under which the landscaper makes payments on the mower during the seven months it is being used.
We might also then flip it around and say, Well lease you a truck and a snowplow, and adjust the payments to take into account the fact hes using the truck year round, says Jeffrey Eakin, senior vice president of Preferred Capital. That payment might be a 12-month payment, but we adjust it a little bit around the winter months to take into account thats when hes generating money to pay for the plow.
When Jeffrey Crowl was 9 years old, his father came home from his job as a sales manager at a local newspaper and asked his family what it thought of him starting his own advertising agency. The younger Crowl voted against it for purely financial reasons. His allowance would go from 50 cents to a quarter.
This early cutback would lead to substantial gain.
Jeffrey colored in the letters of ads his dad worked on at home while getting the business off the ground. This was before computers did all the work.
In 1981, 31-year-old Jeffrey Crowl purchased the business from his father and has advanced it to what it is today, Crowl, Montgomery & Clark Inc., an advertising and sales promotion firm with a waiting room full of awards.
When he and his partner, Mark Clark, bought the company, interest rates were at 17.5 percent. It only took them a year to pay back the bank.
At that age, you have no fear, he says. Its one of those things that you probably dont know enough to stay out of business.
He didnt have much trouble keeping the business growing as he had worked for his father for 10 years. However they did lose a major account shortly after acquiring the firm. They took it in stride.
Because youre put in a position that youve got to succeed, you do. And thats the perspective we took.
One thing he noticed as he grew older was a change in attitudes toward him as a person and business associate, a change that todays young professionals may be happy to hear.
I dont know if there is a ceiling or a plateau at which people say, Well, hes no longer that young whippersnapper that doesnt know anything, to someone whose opinion they respect on a business level, Crowl says. It seemed like it had to be somewhere around that 35-year age where I could almost feel it overnight. All of a sudden there was a change. I cant describe it. It just happened. I can tell you that it was very clear in my mind that all of a sudden, people were showing a respect for my opinion and my business sense.
Data Now Corp. and Wolcott Systems Group were announced as finalists in the Beacon Awards, one of the technology industrys most prestigious awards. The national awards recognize excellence in providing quality products, innovative solutions and superior services. Both companies were finalists in the Rising Star category for young up-and-coming companies.
Chez-Del Home Furnishings and Interior Design received the 1998 Retailer of the Year Award from the Cleveland Home Furnishings Representatives Association, the local chapter of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association. Chez-Del received the award for support to the home furnishings industry and for continued effort bringing new products and services to Northern Ohio.
Merinar CPA, Inc., a Medina-based accounting firm, has moved its offices from Liberty Street to a larger office at 750 E. Washington St., Suite D-3, Medina. The growing accounting firm moved to allow itself room for additional employees.
Imperial Electric of Stow has acquired Euclid Universal Corporation of Bedford.
The Ohio Arts Council announced that the 1999 Governors Award for Business Support of the Arts goes to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Goodyear was recognized for its support of a variety of arts organizations, including the Ohio Ballet, Akron Symphony, Akron Art Museum, Weathervane Playhouse, The Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom Music Center, as well as being First Night Akrons premier sponsor for 1997 and 1998.
U.S. Farathane has specified Geolast thermoplastic rubber from Advanced Elastomer Systems for an injection-molded fuel filler grommet used in the Cadillac Seville.
WALT ST. Investment Management has opened an office in Hudson. The firm specializes in private, professional fee-based investment management.
Jon E. Kaplan, president of TeleDevelopment Services, has announced the creation of Call Center Corporate Compliance Consulting.
Foundation Software Inc. has opened a new training center in Brunswick.
Class Act Copywriting, a writing and editing service, has opened in Kent.
Claudia Hoffman-Hodge has launched CHH and Associates. The Munroe Falls company offers consulting in image enhancement, personal empowerment and professional development.
Valley City-based Zion Industries Inc. has been awarded QS 9000/ISO 9002 registration.
Hudson-based Henning Industrial Software has reached an agreement with N.C. Computer Systems Ltd. of Mulgrave, Australia, to distribute Hennings products in Australia.
A 115,000-square-foot retail Loews Home Improvement Warehouse will be built on Hudson Drive in Stow.
Fairlawn-based Roughley, Jones and Wenner Insurance Agency Inc. has announced an affiliation with the General Casualty Insurance Co. of Sun Prairie, Wis.
Pampered Pals Inc., a manufacturer of gourmet canine cookies, has moved to a new 1,750-square-foot facility at 470 Portage Lakes Drive, Suite 474, Akron.
Roughley, Jones and Wenner Insurance Agency of Fairlawn announced a recent affiliation with General Casualty Insurance Co. of Sun Prairie, Wis.
The following companies have received awards in the 1998 Pro-Comm national competition sponsored by the Business Marketing Association: Mark Freeman Associates, best of category; Hitchcock Flaming & Associates, three awards of excellence; Stein & Co., award of excellence; Wyse Advertising, award of excellence; and The Rogers Co., award of excellence.
University Media Group Inc. will launch 101 Magazine, a publication designed for college students, in the fall of 1999.