When was the last time you asked your employees if they trust you? People take their employees for granted, and that's a big mistake.
I see six ways to build better trust between you and your employees that will make you a better leader
1. Communicate. It's better to overcommunicate than not communicate at all. This can be done through daily, weekly or monthly e-mails, newsletters or managers' meetings.
2. Take a genuine interest in your employees' financial situation. If an employee is having financial problems and you are in a position to help, why not extend an interest-free loan that can be deducted out of future paychecks? It costs little, and the gesture will go a long way.
3. Take a genuine interest in your employees' personal situation. Flextime is a great way to allow employees to deal with childcare, eldercare or sickness in the family. Employees appreciate flexibility.
4. Give recognition when deserved. Surveys show employees crave recognition as much as or more than money. Show them you appreciate their efforts.
5. Show a clear direction for the company. People need to be able to see the future of the company, as well as their own future. It's important to share goals and objectives that pave the way to success.
6. Share key performance measures of how you run the company. Everyone should know what variables are used when making decisions. For instance, one variable could be return on investment and the timeframe in which you expect to get that return.
Leadership is not to be taken lightly. The more you care about your people's needs, the greater the chance that you will be the person leading them. Even when you think your employees are wrong, if you listen carefully, they're probably telling you something about your business that needs correcting.
In the current economic climate, you can't afford to ignore them.
Westfield Group Foundation has appointed Austin Carr to serve on its board of directors. Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1971 NBA draft and a former member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is director of community relations for the Cavs.
Akron Bar Association
Marc Merklin was appointed to the Akron Bar Association Foundation's Board of Governors. He joined Brouse McDowell in 1984 and is a principal in the law firm and chair of its Banking, Bankruptcy and Commercial Law Practice Group.
SamePage Solutions, a provider of scalable, turn-key customer relationship management services, appointed Charles H. "Chuck" Mackey to the newly created post of vice president, sales. He is responsible for refining the firm's sales process and expanding and managing the base of channel partners.
Welty Building Co.
Frank Gazzillo joined the Akron-based construction management firm as director of operations. He has been in the construction industry for 30 years.
FirstMerit's board of directors promoted Mark Grescovich to senior vice president and chief corporate banking officer; Felice L. Larmer to executive vice president of investments and insurance; Earlene P. Balestrino to senior vice president/employee relations manager, human resources department; Mark A. Eakin to vice president, credit recovery; and Peter J. Dennis to assistant vice president, credit quality/loan review. David Lucht joined FirstMerit as executive vice president and chief credit officer.
The Cuyahoga Falls-based company hired Judy Kolo-Rose as senior account executive.
BCG Systems Inc.
The computer services affiliate of Brockman, Coats, Gelelian & Co. hired Ken Klika as manager of networking services. BCG Systems is an IT company based in Akron.
Abbe Turner was promoted to assistant director of development for underwriting and Tim Greenhouse was hired as development associate. WKSU is a service of Kent State University.
Innis Maggiore Group Inc.
The Canton-based communications firm hired Mark Roberts as development director, Lisa Leffler as receptionist and Karen Brackney as administrative coordinator. The firm promoted Debbie Costigan to office manager, Stacie Albrecht to financial coordinator and Brenda Sparhawk to proofreader/PR administrative coordinator.
Buckeye Color Lab
The North-Canton company appointed Stephanie Newport as marketing director.
Hall, Kistler & Co.
Stan Arner, founder of Arner & Co., joined the Canton CPA firm Hall, Kistler & Co. His sons, Franklin and Keith Arner, also joined the firm, as manager and supervisor, respectively.
Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs
The Akron-based law firm appointed Peter T. Cahoon as co-chairman of the litigation practice group and hired Brian C. Reed as a staff attorney. Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs has offices in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus and Boca Raton, Fla.
The Ruby Group Inc.
Jeffrey Ruby, founder of the sales training franchise, hired John Denny as a business development consultant. The Ruby Group is based in Cuyahoga Falls and is a Sandler Sales Institute franchise.
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co.
The Canton-based law firm elected John M. Tucker director of the firm and Michael A. Thompson and James F. Contini to its management committee.
Industrialists such as Henry Ford or Alexander Graham Bell? Technology gurus such as Bill Gates and Michael Dell?
While these and other great entrepreneurs have undoubtedly influenced industry as we know it, I would argue that the truly great influences on industry are those who have worked to inspire and develop our youth, who have taught our children that anything is possible.
Developing the next generation of leaders is not the highest-paying job but it is perhaps the most rewarding. Dr. Robert Sturkey, interviewed as our Who To Know subject this month, understands this -- he gave up his practice as a dentist to work with students at Walsh Jesuit High School as diversity director.
Today, he is running Camp Olympic, a concept he hopes to take nationwide but which for now only benefits Akron-area youth. In a couple of weeks, Olympic gold medalists will arrive in Akron to teach young campers about physical, character and attitude development.
Sturkey hopes to inspire these students as they move through life to consider education and career choices that others may find too challenging.
It takes more than personal drive to develop the kind of ambition that turns a computer science student into the next Bill Gates. Most people who accomplish greatness in their fields talk about mentors and the influences they had on them as children.
Mentoring a young person doesn't have to be a full-time job. There are many ways we all can influence the next generation of leaders without giving up our careers, by setting up a student internship program at our business, becoming involved in a community program for youth or just by making more of an effort to inspire our own children at home.
Maybe what we really need is a good case of an attitude readjustment. I know it's easy to look to the left and to the right and see something that appears to be so much better than what we have. Each one of us has a certain lot in life and it is important to make the best of it. The first thing that happens when we look to one side or the other to see what we don't have is we forget what we do have. Discontentment sets in and we become ungrateful.
Eventually this leads to a bad attitude.
How should we view the discontentment that appears from time to time? As an enemy, and try to avoid it, or as a friend we can learn from?
I see four ways to move closer to a better attitude.
1. Appreciate what you have before you lose it. You or your business may not be where you want to be, but it is important to appreciate what you have or it could be taken from you. Don't look at what you could have, but rather appreciate what you have accomplished.
2. Appreciate what you don't have before you get it. Everything isn't always as good as it seems. Don't wish something upon yourself that appears to be good, but turns out to hurt you. Difficult economic times can lead to poor decision-making as companies take high risks to try to turn bigger profits.
3. Lead by example. A great attitude is contagious and people want to be around it. If you see how much differently you can view life with the right attitude, you'll never have a bad attitude again.
4. Learn from your mistakes. A bad attitude can only be your friend if you learn from it. Change your tone and watch how much better people respond to you. Communication and morale will improve as your attitude changes.
The true test of a person's character is not when things are going well, but how that person handles challenges. The people with winning attitudes are the ones I want on my team. Those with bad attitudes always get thrown off the team in the end because no one wants to play with them.
In March, Zonnevylle was awarded both the "Ohio Business Person of the Year" and the "Republican of the Year" awards by the National Republican Congressional Committee. The awards are given in recognition of business leadership and entrepreneurship. About 50 Ohioans received the "Business Person of the Year" award this year.
Her accomplishments as a business owner over the last few years are undeniably noteworthy: She took over a financially challenged business after her husband's unexpected death, and in seven years, increased sales 50 percent to 70 percent, she estimates.
In 1995, she was faced not only with the sudden loss of her husband, but with the decision of what to do with his ceiling installation business, DeGeorge Ceilings Co. She had worked for the company as a bookkeeper, but otherwise knew little about it.
"I was given a choice by the bank, my accountant and my attorney. It was either sell or try and run it, and I decided to try to run it," she says. "Even some of my children advised me not to do it."
For Zonnevylle, there was little choice.
"I didn't feel I could let it go that easily," she says. "To me, that was not an option. I couldn't see my dad's dream, or my husband's or my dream going down the drain like that."
After many days that started at 6:30 a.m. and didn't end until 2 or 3 the next morning, Zonnevylle learned the business, got a bank loan and turned a fledgling company into a profitable employer.
"I put everything I had into it," she says. "I was very energized and I didn't let anything tear me down. I just hung in there and thought, 'If I can get by death, I guess I can handle anything. Nobody died today, there's nothing that can be any worse than that.'"
Zonnevylle's just not sure, exactly, what she did for the Republican Party during that stressful time to deserve such prestigious honors.
"A year-and-a-half ago, I got a telephone call from (Congressman) Tom Delay's office," she says. "I thought it was a joke."
Delay asked her to sit on the Small Business Advisory Council, which meant a commitment of a few days a year traveling to Washington, D.C., to sit in on congressional meetings. She agreed, but shortly afterward was stricken with an injury that kept her from traveling. She says her involvement on the council amounted to telephone and e-mail correspondence, in which she was asked to share her opinions on issues affecting business owners.
She says that during that time, she adamantly supported the Bush campaign, but primarily voiced her support to family and friends. She may have been able to do more for her party at another time in her life, but her No. 1 priority then was, and still is, her business.
"I didn't feel I had done anything other than work myself to death here trying to keep my business going," she says of the recognition.
In any case, somehow, some way, her accomplishments as a business owner and her understated commitment to the Republican Party were noticed.
The GOP won't tell her who submitted her name for the recognition -- just that it was submitted by more than one person.
In October 2000, Phillips, Robinson's PR director, worked four straight days and nights handling the international attention focused on the hospital after Oscar Andrews was released. (The baby's mother was murdered by a neighbor, who then cut the baby from her body and claimed it as her own.)
Soon after the incident, Phillips turned to the Akron Regional Hospital Association to ask if there was a way member hospitals could call on each other to help with future PR crises.
The ARHA is unique collaboration of hospitals in Summit, Medina and Portage counties -- all 13 of them. The group was created in 1936 to help hospital administrators deal with a nursing shortage.
Since then, it has worked collaboratively on internal issues such as the work force shortage and on community issues such as bioterrorism preparedness, pharmaceutical education and public access to health care. The administrators avoid competitive issues and focus primarily on community issues.
"Every single CEO gets in the room every other month and meets and discusses what's best for the community," says Marianne Lorini, president of the association. "That is very unusual."
The PR arrangement, approved by the association's board last November, should benefit not just hospital staffs, but the media, families and patients, Lorini says.
Now, if a hospital is faced with a PR crisis, its staff can call for immediate, experienced help from other hospitals' PR personnel, who know how to handle the media, take phone calls from families or write press releases.
"They sign a confidentiality agreement, so that for that period of time, they are literally that other hospital's employee, and they cannot reveal anything that goes on while there in that role," Lorini says. "They are at the direction of that head of PR."
Lorini says there are other local and statewide hospital associations, but none, to her knowledge, collaborate to the extent that the Akron association does.
"We even tried to share our PR plan with some of the other cities around the state, and they said, 'This would never work.' But here, it does," she says.
She attributes that to the sense of community that has existed in the Akron area since the rubber industry dominated the town.
"There really is something unique and valuable down here that doesn't seem to be in other places," she says. How to reach: Akron Regional Hospital Association, (330) 668-6180
"How we go in our local counties is how the state goes and how the nation goes," he says. "We are a pretty good representation of what's going on across the country."
Normally, there are 55 plans on an average day for members of the commercial construction industry association to check out. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that dropped to 20, and didn't improve for six months.
But Riffle says things are definitely looking up in the plan room. In March, the number of plans topped out at 65, the most there have ever been. When he logs onto the association's online plan room, he finds that 300 projects -- half of all those currently out for bid in Ohio -- are for $1 million or more.
"What I haven't seen here in the last six months that I'm seeing now -- in the last month, let's say -- are big projects," confirms Larry Thompson of Munroe Falls-based Thompson Electric Inc., one of the area's largest electrical contractors.
And according to Donzell Taylor, president and CEO of Fairlawn-based Welty Building Co., one of the area's largest general contractors and construction managers, there's a renewed sense of urgency to complete those projects, which is good for business.
"The year before last, when we got about 80 percent of the information we needed, we were being pushed to start and figure the rest of it out later," he says. "Last year, (customers) wanted all of the i's dotted, all the t's crossed, everything completely understood. And even when we got to that point, it was, 'Well, let's just think about this a little longer. Let's just wait and see what's going to happen.'"
Taylor and Thompson say many of the big projects are for institutions such as universities, hospitals and other health care facilities. Construction of elementary, middle and high schools "is really booming in the area, too, and it's going to continue to boom for the next couple of years."
Thompson mentions Medina County, where population growth has made building new public schools a necessity, and the city of Akron, where replacing aging schools is a state-mandated priority.
Riffle says light commercial projects -- strip malls, detached stores, offices, fast-food restaurants -- are also being built, many in distressed communities making a comeback.
"You need commercial services to support those areas," he says.
Conversely, Taylor has seen "a very severe drop off" in the construction of industrial facilities and warehouses.
Riffle estimates that 60 percent of new construction is "built for obsolescence," either in appearance or function. Institutional buildings usually have a longer useful life. But the use of high-end materials such as marble, terrazzo and solid cherry paneling to create landmark interiors is waning. Taylor says new structures also tend to be smaller.
"We are seeing most of our clients looking for a lower first cost on their buildings," Taylor says. "They want to put less bells and whistles in."
There are, of course, exceptions, such as an addition to the First Congregational Church of Hudson's 138-year-old sanctuary that Taylor's company recently completed. The structure not only matches the original Western Reserve architecture, it is endowed with extras such as 10-foot-high arched doors with large wood casings and detailed brickwork.
Riffle cites a new library to be built in Hudson, a community known for its well-preserved architecture, as an example.
"They are trying to design and build the library so that 300 years from now, not only will it still fit in with the community, but it will not be torn down," he says.
Structures in other communities are also being designed to complement their architectural surroundings. Riffle says a FirstMerit bank and a McDonald's restaurant in Barberton were modeled after the remaining barns built by O.C. Barber in the mid-1800s on his vast estate in the city he founded. Buildings in a new commercial area are being built in the same style.
How long will the building boom last?
"Next year, I think, will be better than this past year," Thompson says, "but I don't think it's going to be as good as what we've seen in the past." How to reach: The Builders Exchange of Akron, (330) 434-5165; Thompson Electric Inc., (330) 686-2300; Welty Building Co., (330) 867-2400
Since Joe Taggart sold the business in 1958, the restaurant has changed hands four times. As ownership changed, so did much of the devotion to the quality, until the Schotts stepped in with a mission to restore the Taggarts name.
So far, the Schotts have increased sales 110 percent since assuming ownership, and grown the employee base from 14 to 38 full-time and part-time workers.
Patti Schott, a nurse for 32 years, attributes the couple's success to their involvement with the community.
"It really has turned the place around, because the people prior to us were not really involved with the community and we have been, and we donate to any of the community organizations. It has come back to us one-hundred-fold," she says.
Along with reconnecting to the community, the Schotts invested $30,000 in restorations to the 76-year-old building, including general cleaning and painting, landscape improvements and repairs to the stucco exterior. They also replaced outdated kitchen equipment, restored much of the dining room furniture and replaced a player piano in the parlor with a more user-friendly model.
Their most noticeable improvement, however, may have been to the menu. Homemade favorites have returned, including 15 regular and 11 seasonal ice cream flavors, all made on the premises twice a week. The Schotts also use many of Taggarts' original recipes for hot fudge and the flavored syrups used in fountain drinks, homemade soups, salads and sandwiches.
Last year, revenue topped $500,000 at the 72-seat establishment, and the Schotts gave about $300 a month to local schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations. How to reach: Taggarts Ice Cream, (330) 452-6844
Fishers Foods, founded in 1933 by Jeffrey's grandfather, Joseph, has survived the Depression, recessions and influxes of national big-box retailers.
"There's been so many changes within the last five to six years that I think it's even strengthened our position to be an independent," Fisher says.
"As we become the lone ranger, we're the alternative to the big boxes, who really don't do what the customer wants."
Fisher, who has worked for his family's company for 20 years and as its president for the last 15, says quality and value have kept the chain in business.
Fishers doesn't strive to appeal to a particularly low-end or high-end customer, he says. In fact, he admits, "We don't have a target audience. We're not looking for low end or high end, but everybody in the middle. Then we get a lot of high-end customers and we get a lot of low-end customers."
He says a loose market definition works for the company because it has figured out how to truly deliver value to the customer. Fishers does this by offering everyday low prices that are often lower than the national chains.
"We have adopted an everyday low price strategy," he says. "No gimmicky card is needed. Even though we're a small independent, we buy directly from the manufacturers -- we don't buy through a wholesaler. We ship directly into our warehouse from the manufacturer."
He says the quality of Fishers food is exceptional, adding to the whole value concept.
"We're food people," he says. "The food should look good, the food should taste good, and the food is more important than the décor.
"You don't have to pay $25 a pound for great filet," he adds. "We have certain purveyors that work with us, and our meat cutters are trained to look for the quality, to cut it the right way."
The last key to providing value, he says, is always offering good customer service, no matter how low your prices are. That is accomplished by training employees at every level how to communicate. At the store level, he says, Fishers 1,000 employees are trained to treat the customer the same way they would want to be treated when they are grocery shopping.
At the corporate level, the company maintains a separate a separate customer service phone number, listed in the local phone book. It also is lucky enough to employ many long-term employees, who, as Fisher puts it, "carry the banner every day."
"The thing with this industry is that there's always another competitive force that's going to open up. It could be another independent, it could be a regional chain ... but there's never been a time where we felt that we couldn't deliver value." How to reach: Fishers Foods, (330) 497-3000