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.
Its not what showed up on the recent Hilton Hotels Corp. ratings that put the Fairlawn Hilton in first place. Its what didnt show up: specifically, problems. The Hilton Akron/Fairlawn came in No.1 nationally in the category of nonexperience of problems in the corporations latest customer satisfaction survey. The rating reflects the number of reported problems experienced at each hotel.
While many managers give lip service to the value of good customer service, Fairlawn Hilton General Manager Tim Winter practices what he preaches.
Here are some of the practices hes put into play that helped his hotel garner that ranking:
1. Really using the customer comment card system.
Over the last 18 months, weve been focused on our customer comment cards, Winter says.
While the corporation tracks the results of these cards for all its hotels, Winter keeps a strict eye on what shows up on his.
Theres always going to be a light bulb burning out that we cant control, he says. But if theres something that weve seen a couple of guests comment on, we investigate it and try to correct it and eliminate it as a problem.
Several comments on a lack of snooze bars on the hotels clock radios and poorly draining bathtubs brought immediate action. The radios were replaced and a chemical is put through the tubs weekly.
The comment cards were also recently redesigned to be easier on both the user and the manager collecting the responses. For one, the address line was eliminated, so follow-ups are made more quickly via a personal phone call.
Ninety-nine percent of the time theyre absolutely flabbergasted that Ive called. That somebody read their comment card, says Winter.
The cards now take about 30 seconds to fill out, and at the same time, provide more detail about each topic. This is possible because the hotel distributes nine different cards, each dealing with a specific area of the hotel. On one stay, you might get a card asking about the comfort of your bed and pillow, and on the next you may be questioned about room service.
2. Training every member of the staff how to draw out feedback.
It starts at the front desk, with the staff getting to know the guests coming regularly and opening up some dialog, says Winter.
Most guests will choose not to complain about a problem, because it makes them appear to be troublemakers, he says.
Winter says that comment cards normally only reflect the 10 percent of guests who had real problems, and the 10 percent who were extremely happy.
Its that middle 80 percent that weve tried to focus on, because those are the people that come month after month, who may not say anything. But theyre the ones who stay here regularly, and they know what we do right and what we do wrong.
Winter says its important for every member of the staff to be open to hearing complaints, and to be very positive about them. An easy way to start that dialog is by simply asking, Did you enjoy your visit? he says.
In the beginning, especially after you get yelled at a few times, you dread a guest interaction, because you think its going to be ugly, he says. But if you start changing your thinking to Wow, heres an opportunity, instead of Heres a problem, it goes over much better.
3. Holding monthly breakfasts with regular guests.
Winter picks 10 to 12 guests out of the reservation books every month to have breakfast with, and has his front office manager send them an invitation on the day of their arrival. This casual, friendly setting often draws out feedback that Winter wouldnt necessarily have read about on a comment card or heard about from a front desk clerk.
From those breakfasts, Ive learned things about the hotel that I didnt realize, he says. At one breakfast, he was told the fitness equipment was getting too old, not something a guest would normally take the time to complain about. But the concern prompted a $10,000 budget allocation to buy new equipment.
4. Hiring the best people in the industry. And paying to keep them.
When we say we want the best, were willing to pay for it, says Winter. We want our maids to have the best benefits package in the city because we want our rooms to be the cleanest.
Katherines Collection has found its niche creating products which bring back the nostalgia of childhood.
Katherines Collection at Silver Lake Inc., co-owned by Wayne and Katherine Kleski, was started by the couple as a Home Party Plan in 1991. In 1994, the couple decided to evolve their Twinsburg business into an import company, an act which has spurred the growth of the company. For the last five years, Katherines Collection has established itself as a trendsetter in the gift and decorative accessory market.
The collection includes items such as original numbered dolls, handcrafted baskets, porcelain products and Victorian mirrors, among others. The company counts as one of its competitive advantages the ability to design unique, high quality products.
The Kleskis have been astounded by the growth of the company, from four employees in 1994 to 38 today. Katherines Collection sales have increased by more than 800 percent since 1994, with an employee emphasis on excellence in product development and customer service.
The combination of the talents of Katherine and Wayne has been instrumental in this husband and wife teams success, which includes showrooms in Dallas and Chicago and attendance at several trade shows each year.
Katherine works with the companys management to ensure complete customer satisfaction, stays abreast of the status of each department, and acts as a liaison between the company and bankers, contractors and Realtors.
Wayne has used his talent and 25 years of experience to ensure the designs that Katherines Collection presents to the industry are unique and of a high quality. His daily inspiration remains the days he spent as a young boy with his Italian grandmother, from whom he learned the value of hard work, craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The Kleskis have been very pleasantly surprised by the companys success and are optimistic that growth will continue with their hands-on to approach to business that has nurtured not only the growth of the company, but that of its dedicated staff.
In a job market in which qualified employees are hard to come by, ELBEX Corp. is attracting and keeping an increasing number of full-time workers by offering good old-fashioned benefits.
Its very hard to get people and very hard to keep them, says ELBEX Corp. President Edward L. Bittle. Its a daily struggle.
To help ease the struggle, which is faced by many area employers, and to ensure it continues to attract quality workers, the manufacturer of custom extruded rubber products offers benefits including two pension plans, life insurance, medical insurance, a profit sharing plan, paid holidays and paid vacations. Although many companies offer similar benefits, ELBEX is unusual in that the benefits cost the employees nothing the company picks up 100 percent of the tab.
Were doing everything we can right now, Bittle says.
ELBEX has gone from nothing to about 80 employees since it was founded in Kent in 1992. Some key employees, such as general manager Marlin Hickey and sales manager Donna Delgado, have been with the company since the beginning, while others have been added as the companys sales continue to increase.
These are the people who have made this thing grow, says Bittle.
ELBEX has more than doubled its sales figures since 1994, with sales growth of nearly 50 percent from 1997 to 1998 alone. Bittle says the company is taking steps now to ensure that it continues to grow in the future. Thats why we just made a big investment in a new plant.
The 34,000-square-foot factory is 90 percent operational and the move in is nearly complete.
On April 29 at the Brookside Country Club, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce honored this years winners of the sixth annual SCOPE awards, recognizing Stark Countys Outstanding Private Enterprises.
Businesses are judged on staying power, company and employee growth, service and product innovation, response to adversity and community involvement.
This year, the chamber cut the number of winners from 11 to six, making the awards more exclusive. After dissecting close to 70 nominations, these are the businesses that stand a cut above the rest. We at SBN would like to congratulate all the winners and wish them continued success.
The Amish Door Restaurant and Village Inc
A country inn, gift shops and a restaurant serving traditional Amish style food
Philosophy to success: Keep an eye on your competition, but blaze your own trail.
In 1977, Milo Miller, president of Amish Door Inc., bought a restaurant in Wilmot because his previous job, as a mason, was killing his back.
Little did he dream that his 48-seat restaurant serving home cooked Amish style food would blossom into a whole village.
The restaurant, where all the food is made from scratch, now seats 450 and is accompanied by a 500-seat banquet facility, 50-room country inn, a bed and breakfast and six retail stores selling antiques, gifts and baked goods.
What the Amish Door Village has done is create a destination place.
When I first got here, it was always, Whats the competition doing? says Eric Gerber, vice president of Amish Door Inc. We got to the point where we said, Wait a second. Why are we always worried about what the competition is doing? Lets take some chances ourselves.
By becoming involved with travel associations and attending bus company trade shows, the Amish Door has boosted its number of visitors and its revenue.
As the Amish Door grew, the one item that was the base of its success remained constant the food. Gerber says the company could cut out some labor costs if it used some prepackaged foods, but it refuses to compromise the quality of the food.
You can have a nice place. You can have a clean place. If the food isnt good or the waitresses arent friendly and the waitresses dont take care of you, youre not going to have people coming back, Gerber says. Have we perfected that? No, but thats our goal.
Beaver Excavating Co.
Heavy construction company specializing in earthwork, site preparation, concrete foundations, underground utilities, roadwork, golf courses, landfills and maintenance to the industrial sector
Philosophy to success: Provide excellent service and quality work at a fair price.
Founder Don Sterling started Beaver Excavating with a $4,000 loan, a dump truck and a back hoe. Initially, the company dug basements and sewer systems for home builders. Now it utilizes more than 300 pieces of equipment for major projects from construction to destruction in Ohio and bordering states.
W. Mark Sterling, president of Beaver Excavating, says the company kind of grew in spurts.
The first and largest division is Earthwork, specializing in moving earth for projects from site preparation for houses to building dams.
The company later formed an underground utilities division in response to customer demands. This division has installed sewer systems and pump stations for entire cities.
In 1982, working on a project for the Timken Company, Beaver prepared more than three million cubic yards of earth, laid more than 10 miles of underground utilities and started its concrete division by pouring a 26,000-cubic-yard foundation.
We basically do everything but build buildings, Sterling says.
Ernies Bicycle Shop
Providing new bicycles and repair service in Massillon, North Canton, New Philadelphia, Wooster and Canal Fulton. Ernies also sells fitness equipment and other wheeled recreational vehicles, such as wagons and skateboards.
Philosophy to success: Find your customers, then give them what they want, even if that requires opening another store.
Ernie Lehman, owner of Ernies Bicycle Shop, says he got into the bike business by mistake. One day, while an employee at Brewster Dairy, he was looking through Mother Jones Magazine and saw an ad for a bike shop for sale in Bolivar. Thinking it might be a fun side business, he bought it, and after a month, moved it to Navarre, where it stayed for seven years. He worked the shop alone, part-time, while working at the dairy.
We didnt look into growing too much, says Lehman, but slowly the bike shop took up more and more of his time and he eventually decided to dedicate himself to it full time. The majority of his customers were coming from Massillon, so Lehman moved his shop.
Once in Massillon, he noticed he was drawing a large clientele from the Canton area, so following the flow of demand, he opened a shop in North Canton.
Once we opened the second one, we got a taste of running a shop you arent at, he says. Ernies Bicycle Shops have since opened in New Philadelphia, Wooster and Canal Fulton, all following the flow of his customer base.
Lehman attributes his success to the fact that he loves the sport that is his business, as do his employees. For the betterment of the sport, the company has donated more than $10,000 to development of local trails. Lehman is a member of the Ohio and Erie Canal Corridor Coalition and the Ohio and Erie Canal Association and last year received a corporate award for support of the trail. Ernies was named a Top 50 Trek bicycle dealer in 1998 out of 3,000 dealers nationwide.
Meter Devices Co., Inc.
Designer and manufacturer of electricity metering products and equipment
Philosophy to success: Have a vision to be number one and seek to achieve that vision in all aspects of your business.
Meter Devices Co. is a world leader in electricity metering products and equipment, serving customers in North America, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Were known as the market share leader in the product lines we sell, says John Shincovich, group vice president. So the utilities (companies) have a lot of confidence in what were doing our quality level, our pricing, the whole nine yards.
The deregulation of the utility industry has created more of a demand for metering products, and Meter Devices has accommodated the industry with short lead times and innovative quality products. The company has posted four consecutive record growth years, doubling in size every three years for the past nine.
To accommodate growth, this October the company plans to move into its new 70,000-square-foot facility in Canton Township, where new product lines will be opened, creating more employment opportunities.
Shincovich stresses that embracing technology in all aspects of the business has helped it achieve number one market status.
Meter Devices supports The Canton Rotary and The Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival. Earlier this year, the company donated $3,000 to Dueber Elementary School in Canton as part of its Corporate Adopt-A-School Program for the advancement of education at the primary level.
Navarre Industries Inc.
Manufacturer of fuel dispensing nozzles and components in use worldwide
Philosophy to success: Keep the company simple and let your people be people. Provide for your customers exactly what they want exactly when they want it.
By paying close attention to their customers needs, Paul and Greg Miller, brothers and owners of Navarre Industries Inc., have devised a method of manufacturing in which they produce to an inventory instead of producing to fill an order. This way, when an order is received, it can be shipped out that day. This keeps their customers happy and turns into repeat business.
The simplicity of this system stems from the simplicity of the company itself. The Miller brothers started by doing all the work themselves. Currently, the company utilizes an administrative staff of four and the rest of the 40 employees are in production.
Ten percent of the production workers are in quality control, which translates into perfection of product and shipments. The company has not missed a shipment in four years, and shipping 100,000 pieces per month, it has had no rejected parts in three years.
For Navarre Industries, the trickle down theory of a companys success has become more of a pour down theory. Last year, the company gave all employees a $1.50 per hour raise.
We felt we were getting the right revenues per person that we were able to do that, Paul Miller says. As long as we can continue to pay them more money, were going to pay them more money.
The company has never laid off one person.
Flexibility is the name of the game for Navarre Industries as federal standards continually force it to make adjustments to product designs. Its customers also come to it regularly with changes in design specifications.
But by far the biggest adjustment the owners had to make came a year into the companys existence when the building was struck by lightning. A hydraulic press blew up and a fire broke out, but the Millers went ahead with business as usual, not missing any shipments.
Our customers never knew it until we told them, Miller says.
Miller knows his company would not have overcome this pitfall or grown to its existing status without his employees.
One of the things weve learned over the years is you cant do anything as far as being successful unless you have people out there really willing to do the job and do a good job for you, he says.
Navarre Industries will add 15 employees this month with the introduction of two new production lines.
Thats our focus right now, to make it the very best place to work in this county, so that we have a line of people, even in these employment conditions, dying to get in here because it pays well, because the conditions are good and because were fair minded people.
Shearers Foods, Inc.
Family owned manufacturer of Grandma Shearers Snacks and manufacturer of private label products for select customers in the snack food industry
Philosophy to success: Get the best employees, make the best product and have the best service.
What started out with Jack Shearers urge to make his own potato chips out of a kettle in Canton has grown into a $24 million operation in a state-of-the-art, multimillion dollar production facility in the one crossroad town of Brewster.
First and foremost, what sets us out from our competition is the quality of our products, says Jeff Vaughn, vice president of finance. He attributes that quality to the Shearers obsession with perfection.
Tom Shearer, vice president of the company, says its the little things the company does that keeps it ahead of the competition.
In todays competitive market, people still want a quality product, not necessarily the cheapest, Shearer says.
The cooking oils, salts and spices are checked hourly in the plant, and with the recent additions to Shearers production facility, every stage of the process, down to grinding corn, is handled and monitored in the factory.
In addition, the plant is thoroughly cleaned and the cooking oils filtered daily, in an industry in which the average for cleaning is three times a week and for filtering, once a week. The result is that after 15 hours of cooking, the facility is still cleaner than most peoples homes.
The plant is regularly inspected by a rabbi so that all Shearer products may be kosher certified.
This commitment to quality has paid off as Shearers products continually win Gold Medal Awards from the American Taste Institute and top awards in virtually every other snack food competition.
Bob Shearer, president of the company, says that overall he is proudest of The acceptance of the product we make by our customers and the double digit growth that we show and the expansion that we just completed.