CRESCO Real Estate was founded nine years ago on a strong basis of teamwork.
Where other traditional brokerage organizations are composed of independent contractors with different goals, CRESCO sought to create a company that worked together and shared both the good and the bad.
In the past five years, CRESCO has grown by 50 percent and is a respected player in the industrial real estate market it serves. Company President Armand Aghajanian believes the companys success rests on its mix of industry experience, quality customer service and a strong team mentality.
Im an active guy, says Aghajanian. Im not just sitting back listening. Im out on the street with the rookies and I know whats going on within our company and within our marketplace because Im still active in the business, as opposed to sitting back as an administrator and having people come to you with problems.
Typically, there is little teamwork among people associated with a particular brokerage, and the sharing of commission is out of the question. CRESCOs team concept allows workers to provide a more complete, one-stop company to its clients and creates a more desirable work environment for staff members.
None of the partners step on each other, says Aghajanian. The bottom line is, its all coming back to us.
This kinder, gentler workplace concept has worked well for the company. Since it was founded in 1991, there has been very low turnover. In fact, the staff members who have left did so for personal reasons rather than because they were hired away by a competing firm. And although the work is shared inside the firm, so are the rewards. Bonuses are awarded to everyone at every level of CRESCO, based on the companys overall performance.
This success sharing, explains Aghajanian, is one of the main reasons the companys teamwork concept has worked so well for so long: If one person loses, everyone does.
Aghajanian, along with Fred W. Christie and Joseph V. Barna, all former employees of Grubb & Ellis, are the primary account team. Together, the trio has built a strong reputation for themselves in the industrial real estate market. Locally, CRESCO has a number of significant accomplishments, including identifying and securing 15 distribution centers for the Plain Dealer, securing a 10-year lease for GTE on a 78,000-square-foot regional office and selling space downtown for the new Stonebridge condominiums, apartments and retail developments.
As far as being recognized as one of Northeast Ohios leading entrepreneurs, Aghajanian deflects credit for the companys success to everyone who has worked to make it what it is today.
Not only me, but everybody here feels were extremely honored, he says. Were a small company and we have a small niche in our marketplace, although we do a lot of work. Those in our field know who we are and were well thought of.
Thats the way we do our business. How to reach: CRESCO Real Estate, (216) 520-1200
Jim Vickers (email@example.com) is an associate editor at SBN Cleveland.
Two decades ago, Frank Pistone never envisioned himself as president of a well-established and consistently growing business that today tops $2 million in annual sales.
After all, he says, his company evolved by accident, literally. And he didn't even have a business plan when he started his ground transportation service 18 years ago.
"My brother had wrecked my family car, and since I've always been a 'big-car' guy, I decided to buy a used 1978 formal limousine from a local limo company," Pistone says. "After I bought the car, the seller asked me to sign a contract agreeing not to go into the limousine business, even though I had no intention to do that -- I was already working 80 hours a week for my dad's snack-food supply business."
Since the contract hadn't previously been mentioned, Pistone refused to sign on principle and instead, asked for a refund. The seller acquiesced, and Pistone drove away in the classy car.
"When I brought it home to show my wife, she went ballistic -- 'You bought what? Are you crazy?'" he recalls, laughing.
But Pistone's wife, Joyce, quickly adapted to riding in style, and there was always a preferred parking space reserved for them at dining venues and nightclubs. Soon, the couple started finding business cards slipped under the windshield wiper, soliciting chauffeuring services. Encouraged by his wife, Pistone refurbished the limo, acquired the proper permitting and licensing, and the couple cruised right into a cushy new business -- A Touch Of Class Limousine Service Inc.
"At first, we ran the business from home and my wife did everything from hiring to washing cars," says Pistone, noting that Joyce Pistone is vice president, treasurer and the driving force of the company. "We had no clue what we were doing, but we were so much in demand that we kept leasing and buying more vehicles."
The eight-car fleet quickly outgrew their driveway and street parking spaces, so in 1986, Pistone leased a 5,000-square-foot space at 5893 Center Road in Valley City on Route 303 near Brunswick. After moving into the luxury limo bus market in 1991, he acquired another 5,000 square feet at the same location. This year, he purchased the entire seven-acre lot from the former landlord.
Pistone dedicates most of the space to his showroom, administrative offices and transport facility, and leases out the remaining buildings on the property.
Today, A Touch of Class boasts a colossal fleet of late model vehicles to meet all transportation needs, from ultra-stretch Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars to luxury VIP coaches. There are seven sedans, four six-passenger stretch limousines, five 10-passenger super-stretch limos, two six-passenger executive limo vans, two 14-passenger vans, one 24-passenger shuttle bus, four 20-passenger VIP luxury coaches, two 30-passenger mini-tour buses and a 57-passenger tour bus.
The company employs almost 75 people, including reservationists, corporate sales representatives, accounting and management personnel, dispatchers, auto detailers, auto technicians and full- and part-time licensed and uniformed chauffeurs who cover a ribbon of asphalt that stretches five counties wide. The company's client roster includes organizations such as FirstEnergy Corp, The Akron Symphony, Babcock & Wilcox, the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns.
Since Pistone didn't initially map his trek to success with a business plan, one wonders how he arrived at the pinnacle of prosperity. He says he kept his eyes on the road (and on the rear-view mirror) to determine where the bulk of his business originated, and strategically steered expansion efforts in that direction.
Seeing that 60 percent of his company's services were requested by the corporate sector -- from business and convention transport to golf outings and office parties, Pistone began focusing on more corporate services, such as long-distance meetings, facility tours and employee sales incentives. He made all the right connections so he could offer convenience packages such as catering for day trips, and invested in limos for conference seating, equipping them with everything from cellular phones to fax capabilities.
To enhance his company's image, Pistone joined the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the Cleveland Convention Visitors Bureau, the Ohio Limousine Owners Association and the National Limousine Association. Those alliances served to impress both corporate clients and private individuals, says Pistone, noting that the other 40 percent of his sales are in the leisure market: weddings, proms, retirements, sightseeing and shopping tours, casino gambling trips and other special events.
Pistone also eagle-eyed trends to add value at every opportunity. For example, he affiliated his company with a national ground transportation network so he could provide corporate customers with limousine service anywhere in the nation.
A recent trend Pistone has capitalized on is the corporate customer's preference for low-profile vehicles.
"Because of the trend of downsizing, layoffs and pay cuts, corporations don't want to have limousines parked in front of their establishments. So we were one of the first companies to purchase executive limo vans, because they're inconspicuous, not pretentious, and yet there's a lot of luxury inside," he says.
Pistone says he's also kept apprised of trends in his industry by attending annual limousine conventions, and networking with ground transport companies in cosmopolitan cities to learn how things are done.
"There have been huge shifts in the transportation industry, and I've really focused on the destination management trend," he says, explaining that he's developed a personal forte in coordinating transportation for conventions and special events.
"We're a very detail-oriented company and we worked our way up the ladder by doing local corporate conventions that involved about 20 buses. Then we got involved with the NBA and they chose us to do the limousine, sedan and van work," he says. "Since then, we've done things like the NBA All-Star Game, the Major League Baseball Playoffs and World Series, where we've transported the players and commissioners for those events, coordinating more than a hundred passenger buses and shuttling people to a couple of dozen hotels and other locations."
As for a road map for his own results, "When we took on serious overhead with the building and staffing, we started developing a solid business plan," Pistone says, explaining that a heavy focus has been placed on staff training, reservations technology, driver communications equipment and satellite communications capability.
In terms of financing, Pistone says he initially funded his company's growth by acquiring vehicles through a friend who started a leasing company.
"But in 1986, when the government repealed the investment tax credit, it was no longer advantageous to him. So I started going the traditional financing route," he says.
Pistone explains that since he's committed to providing the newest fleet in Northeast Ohio, the average age of his vehicles is two years. So, when he sells the older vehicles, does he require the buyers to sign noncompete agreements? "Absolutely not!" he laughs.
How to reach: A Touch Of Class Limousine Service Inc., (330) 225-5382 or www.atoclimo.com
When it became apparent that Florine Mark had achieved success in her early days as a Weight Watchers franchisee, some people attributed it to good luck. She didn't necessarily disagree with the assessment.
"They used to say, 'Well, you're very lucky,' and I used to say, 'Yeah, I'm very, very lucky, but I work very hard at being lucky,'" says Mark, president and CEO of the WW Group, the largest franchisee of Weight Watchers International. "I think that's what everybody has to do, you have to work hard and you have to -- I believe I'm lucky, I really believe I'm lucky. So it happens. If you believe it strongly enough, it will happen."
If her operating principle is valid, Mark has worked quite hard. Her company, located in Farmington Mills, Mich., spans 10 states, including Pennsylvania, as well as Mexico and Ontario. Across the WW Group, approximately 100,000 people regularly attend 2,500 meetings held at more than 1,000 locations. In Greater Pittsburgh alone, 10,000 people meet in several hundred sessions at more than 90 locations.
Ironically, Mark turned to Weight Watchers in desperation as a final attempt to shed excess pounds.
"I had lost 50 pounds nine times before with diet pills," Mark recounts, and she eventually overdosed on amphetamines. "My family doctor said, 'I'm not going to be responsible for your life if you take any more diet pills,' and I didn't know how I was going to lose weight, because I never felt I could do it myself."
Mark joined Weight Watchers in New York in 1966, dropped 50 pounds and gained the idea for a business venture. She started her franchise in Detroit with a single meeting.
In this month's One on One, Mark, who was recently a guest speaker at The Business Show in Monroeville, talks about what it takes to be successful in business, why she and Weight Watchers continue to prosper -- and why she's got a dream job.
SBN: Why has Weight Watchers been successful?
Florine Mark: We believe in what we say; we walk our talk. We don't give pills, we don't sell food, we don't make you pay in advance for anything. Everyone that works with us believes in our product and our service. We have a big staff of advisory boards of the finest doctors, psychologists, exercise physiologists, psychiatrists, M.D.s, D.O.s, constantly researching the best ways to lose weight, the best ways to exercise. We've changed out diets several times, four or five times over the last 30 years. We always want to be up to date.
You seem to be very enthusiastic about your business. How does Weight Watchers hold your interest after all these years?
Weight control is a very passionate, fabulous field because you see only your successes. Your failures seem to drop out and don't come back, so you'll see among the people who are there, your customers -- we call them our members -- people who are happy, who are doing something about themselves, are getting healthier, who are getting motivated to do better in life. It's a very passionate, very wonderful business.
The product we sell is self-respect. When people ask me, 'What do you sell?' it's not losing weight. We sell self-respect. When you see an 11-year-old kid that's lost 30 pounds and feels good about himself and is playing soccer and baseball, how do you put a price on that?
When you see a man that comes in and says, 'After I lost 70 pounds, I found out I had a rare form of breast cancer in men, and the doctor said that if I hadn't lost the weight, I'd have been dead in a year,' how do you put a price on that? It's been the most wonderful business ever. I could never think of changing, I could never think of doing anything else.
What kinds of risks did you have to take when you were starting out with Weight Watchers?
Well, I had no money. I had small children and a lot of responsibilities. I could have gone out and gotten another job that would have paid a steady salary. I didn't know if this was going to pay off as far as the money was concerned, but every day is taking a risk, whatever you do. But I have no regrets.
In fact, I'm more passionate about what I do today than I was, say, 25 years ago. But it's easier now. Then, I was the bookkeeper, I was the controller, I was the advertising person, I was the marketing person, I was the leader, I was the receptionist, you know, I did everything myself. Now, I have a full staff of people all over the country from Mexico to parts of Canada and the Midwest and to the East. And it's very exciting.
What might you have done if you hadn't become a Weight Watchers franchisee?
I wanted to be a movie star, I wanted to do television on-air, I wanted to do radio. I like to write, I wanted to do public relations. I think that's what I would have done, but I think marketing is what I love the most. And I do all of that now. I'm on TV. I write for our newspaper, with a circulation of 350,000; I'm very involved in that. So all of my dreams of what I wanted to be -- I'm writing a book -- all are happening.
Who were your mentors?
At the very beginning, there were no women around, so my mentors were my CPA and my lawyer. What I did, even though I had no money, was to find the finest law firm and the finest CPA firm, and I told these guys that I had no money but I was going to be successful. I must have convinced them because they treated me the same way then as they treat me today, and today I'm their largest woman client. Then, I didn't have 500 bucks.
What are the factors that have helped you to become a success as a Weight Watchers franchisee?
I believed in the product. I had a fire in my belly, a passion in my heart. I recognized that success was, first, what you want, and then what you're willing to give up to get it. I've always done strategic planning. I've always had goals. I've always written things down; when I get up, I'm always writing things down. I believe in people, I believe in my gut.
My goal was always to hire people that were better and smarter than I was and let them do the job; I've always done that. When I find out that it's not working, I have to make changes. But I've been pretty right for a very long time. I have a lot of people that have worked for me for 25 years.
How is running Weight Watchers like operating any other business?
I think in most businesses today, if you want to be honest about it, the intellectual problems can be solved very easily. You hire the best CPA or the best engineer, you buy the best equipment, whatever. The real problems are people problems, and that's where a lot of people in business seem to go astray because they don't keep their eye on the thing that's most important -- that's the people who work for them, and their customers.
And if you pay 100 percent attention to that and pay other people to do the financial and the other stuff, you will have a good business. If the people who work for you, if their morale is good and they like what they're doing, you're going to have customers.
What occupies most of your time?
The morale of my staff is 50 percent of my time, and 50 percent of my time is everything and anything to do with bringing members into classes. I'm involved in the marketing department, I'm involved in the advertising, I'm involved in the training of the staff and the retraining of the staff.
What advice do you give to entrepreneurs?
Be very passionate about your product; believe in it. If you don't believe in it, forget it. Take the risk. Keep your eye on the people that work for you and the ones who are buying your product. Write plans. My plans change all the time, but at least I write them. I put them down on paper; I know where I'm going. I trust other people. I manage my team and I certainly have the final say, but I can't ever remember having to use that authority. It can't be right for me and not right for you, and it can't be right for you and wrong for me, so we have to sit there and talk about it and communicate until it's right for both of us. You have to be able to give. You can't be egotistical, you can't be a monarch -- the only authority in your business. First of all, it won't be any fun, people won't respect you for it, and I don't think you'll do as well.
Ray Marano (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associated editor of SBN.
Most people who pass the former post office at East Market and Prospect streets assume that the business inside is an art or photography studio, a reasonable assumption since the signage reads Charles Mayer Studios Inc.
Yes, the company does have a photography department, and offers services from executive portraits to motion picture photography. Picture framing is also a forte, with more than 2,000 molding choices, and services such as matting, installation and frame repair.
But whats surprising is that Mayer Studios is actually a manufacturer of sales tools and training aids, specializing in 15 core areas, with hundreds of products and about 40 specialty services.
Displays and exhibits from lightweight tabletop to large-scale floor models with services from design and fabrication to installation and repair. Interior and exterior display boards from bulletin to directory and letter boards with dozens of features. Indoor and outdoor signs of all kinds. Plaques and presentation pieces. Rental audio-video equipment. An art department for everything from lettering and graphics to airbrushing and hot stamping. Woodworking offerings for items such as cabinets and conference tables.
Despite the seeming diversity, Charles Mayer, president, says these areas are strategically related, and were all spawned by necessity.
For example, Mayer wasnt in the sign business two decades ago. But after installing computerized equipment needed for his display-lettering specialty, the opportunity for signs presented itself. And because some customers prefer wood displays, the woodworking department followed. If they wanted a wood veneer display, that required a plastics department for work with acrylic, extruded aluminum and all sorts of dyes.
We get into the use of all these different things, so one specialty engages the other, Mayer explains.
As a manufacturer of audio-visual equipment, such as rear projection screens for Bell and Howell, Mayer would add new equipment for part manufacture, and, in turn, find ways to make the most of it. In essence, necessity became the mother of invention, and innovation spawned new offerings.
We were manufacturing flannel boards and we thought the Velcro concept would work for that. Velcro wasnt interested in developing a similar fastener for us, so we developed our own version. We called it Hook NLoop, filed for a patent and trademark, and that became one of our strongholds, Mayer says.
Yet another forte falls under the umbrella of Mayer Investments Co., a real estate group that, among other things, purchases and rehabilitates properties one of those being the historic building that houses Mayer Studios.
We bought it 24 years ago for no other reason than to save it, because I liked the architecture. Like other properties weve had to gut and start from scratch, we put a lot of money into this building and now its recognized by the Federal Registry, he says, noting that the rehabilitation was extensive.
Few people realize that when Mayer bought the structure, there were only two floors. The main levels 30-foot-high ceiling made it costly to heat, so he minimized heating costs and maximized space by adding a middle level, resulting in a 75,000-square-foot office building that houses his multifaceted company.
Mayer says that even after 66 years in business, being able to fill multiple needs for countless customers inspires him to look for even more areas in which to specialize.
Thats what keeps me going, because if I had to specialize in just one thing, Id be lost, he says.
How to reach: Charles Mayer Studios Inc., (330) 535-6121
In the press package commemorating its 75th anniversary, Bruner-Cox LLP includes an amusing timeline that juxtaposes the accounting firm's milestones against other historical events.
For example, Charles Lotz joined the firm as a partner in 1931 -- the same year Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for income tax evasion. A disclaimer clarifies that Capone was not a client of the firm.
Noting that Steve Pittman became a partner in 1987, the narrative reads, "Based on his portfolio, Steve feels slightly responsible for the Black Monday Stock Market Crash."
Another notation declares that managing partner John Finnucan joined the firm in 1978 -- the same year "the first official Elvis sighting was recorded."
Says Finnucan, "Our goal is to make Bruner-Cox a fun place to work."
I woke up this morning to bold-faced headlines heralding another increase in gas prices.
Even though my gas tank's on "E" right now and I have a 35-mile drive each way to work, I wasn't too put off by the prospect of spending $36 to fill up my mid-sized car's tank. The truth is, I'm not driving to work this morning. And I'm going to wait to fill up my tank until I absolutely have to. I'm working at home writing this column, proofing my dummy pages and writing and responding to e-mails on an hourly basis with the people I must communicate with today.
And who knows where those employees are, as we e-mail back and forth.
Fifteen percent of SBN employees have flexible office hours. Another estimated 30 percent of our editorial and sales staff work at home at some point during the week. In fact, our top-producing sales manager, who holds one of the highest-pressure jobs in the company, works at home part of the week.
Our HR manager tells me that we have an unwritten policy that states, 'If the job gets done, it's not important where the job is getting done, but that it's accomplished in a quality and timely matter.' She adds that the flexible schedules are dictated by the employee, not the manager.
She has observed a drastic change in employee morale since this policy became effective. Now that the taboo of putting one's family, or personal needs first has been removed, employees are happier and more comfortable in their jobs, she notes. Family needs have always come first, she believes, only now that fact is openly recognized by both employees and managers. The result: a more content work force.
We learned about five years ago that we must offer schedules that accommodate employees' personal needs in order to attract the caliber of staff we need. And now that the unemployment rate is at a 30-year low, that benefit is no longer optional. Employees are demanding it. Our HR manager tells me that the second most common question she is asked by prospective employees is about our flex-time policy. If we can't offer the schedule employees are demanding, we risk losing that person to another company.
Even manufacturing companies are offering flexible schedules. To keep machines running, one local company offers employees the opportunity to work 10-hour work days, with Fridays off. About 10 percent of those employees work that schedule, the company owner says. So far, the arrangement has worked, although the owner says it is not always possible to offer flex-time in every production facility.As the competition for quality employees increases, employers must find new creative ways of attracting a better work force. In SBN's case, flexible scheduling has been an effective mechanism to compete in that arena. Connie Swenson (cswenson@sbnnetcom) is editor of SBN.
All of this information is critical if a company wants to compete in today's market.
Many companies have automated most of their business processes, including finance and manufacturing, to maintain their competitiveness in a fast-paced environment. What about the human resources function? How can a human resources information system (HRIS) benefit the bottom line?
Improved information retrieval. Companies must cope with the constant demand for information from the government, the management team and employees. Once the system is up and running, a company can retrieve quickly information such as labor costs, government required reports and employee data. This reduces the time spent retrieving information and increases accuracy.
Reduction in labor costs. An HRIS operates from a single database that serves all HR functions: payroll, benefits administration, HR management, recruiting and training. There is no need to enter employee information in HR records, then again in payroll. Employee data is entered and updated just once for all functions, reducing errors and cutting down on clerical time.
Simplified benefits administration. Many time-consuming benefits operations (tracking entitlements, notifying employees of coverage options and costs, etc.) are handled automatically by an HRIS. Costs associated with regulatory compliance are kept to a minimum, with immediate bottom line gain.
Instant development of government required reports. An HRIS generates standard reports that meet government requirements. The system guides the company in complying with EEO, OSHA, Workers' Compensation, Affirmative Action and other government regulations with no errors and in less time compared to handling these functions manually.
Improved service to key customers. Questions are answered faster and more accurately. Reports can be printed that detail information employees commonly ask for, such as benefit and wage information. Managers can quickly access performance reviews, pay and job history to help them make key decisions. Less time is spent searching for data through multiple files and spreadsheets, and both management and employees can focus more time on value-added activities.
Key information provided for strategic planning. An HRIS enables your company to be responsive to strategic needs. Customized reports support analysis, forecasting and planning. The information your company needs to formulate and modify strategy is easily accessible.
With an effective HRIS, a company can manage both the day-to-day administration of human resources and the deeper level of strategy. Both the short-term and long-term benefits of using an HRIS have a positive impact on your company's bottom line. Michelle Salis is a senior consultant for HR Consulting, an affiliate company of Bruner-Cox. She can be reached at (330) 498-0897.
Michelle Salis is a senior consultant for HR Consulting, an affiliate company of Bruner-Cox. She can be reached at (330) 498-0897.
Given its large number of electoral votes, Ohio has always been an important state in presidential politics.
As the 2000 campaign comes to the forefront, it seems to be developing into an important swing state in determining who will be our next president. In keeping with its mandate to promote the open discussion of issues affecting businesses, Ohioans for Better Business (with SBN affiliation) would like to host a two-part forum in September that will provide the Republican and Democratic nominees for president separate opportunities to discuss issues of concern to business owners and to explain their plans for creating a strong pro-jobs environment in Ohio and the nation.
We spearheaded the creation of Ohioans for Better Business because of our experiences during the past 10 years as the largest chain of business-to-business publications in Ohio. In our business dealings throughout the state, an increasing number of business leaders voiced their interest in creating a forum to discuss taxes, health care, the environment, labor relations, campaign finance reform and other issues of importance.
I have aired many of these issues in my column, which reaches more than 300,000 readers -- most of whom are presidents and owners of companies ranging in size from 20 to 500 employees. Few topics bring as much feedback as those that have a political focus to them, because politics can affect whether a business is successful or not.
A simple change in an environmental law can have a huge impact on business. An administrative ruling can mean the difference between a business surviving or failing. Too many times laws are enacted or changed without proper input from business owners and leaders. It's time our representatives in Congress and the White House hear our side of the story.
In short, business owners care about what happens in Washington, which is why we created Ohioans for Better Business. We believe the work of the federal government clearly dictates the future of Ohio's business climate, for better or worse. Ohioans for Better Business is dedicated to promoting the open discussion of issues impacting our business communities.
While more than just a business advocacy group, we will be supporting the advancement of federal, state and local legislation that will support successful Ohio businesses and make the climate here business-friendly.
Each of our two proposed forums will be by invitation only and include business owners and members of top management from companies throughout the state. This will be a great opportunity to talk to other owners who have similar concerns and to hear first-hand what our representatives are doing to improve the business climate. If you are interested in attending these events, please contact us.
We also want to encourage any feedback on issues you might have. It is very important that we hear from you about the issues that affect your day-to-day operations.
What can political leaders do to make your business more successful, generate more jobs and make the community a better place to live? Now is the time for your voice to be heard. We need your support. Many people don't bother to get involved because they don't feel they can make a difference. However, our goal is to create a unified voice for business owners and leaders and bring attention to the issues that affect them. Synergy is where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Without you, we are missing a very important part. Fred Koury (email@example.com) is president and CEO of SBN.
Joseph Palmer says that buying a business is like judging a beauty contest.
"Unless you're a turnaround buyout company looking for a losing business, no one wants to buy a troubled company that requires a lot of heavy lifting to make it a profitable venture," he says.
As a partner at Moore Stephens Apple, an Akron accounting firm and business management consultancy, Palmer says that logically, a company doesn't have much to offer if it has marginal sales, hasn't maintained customer relationships and isn't running efficiently and effectively. But if a company passes the following checklist, it's a worthy candidate as a prospective purchase.
1. Succession plan. When you purchase a business, you're not just buying assets, products or services. You're buying people. Since sellers usually exit after a transition period, a company's ability to continue operating hinges on existing, succeeding management to serve as your mentors.
"If management hasn't been trained and allowed to implement key business decisions in the past, you will fail," says Palmer.
2. Strategic plan. This sets a business apart from its competition, says Palmer.
"Determine if the company has strategically positioned itself and communicated that mission to its employees, vendors and customers."
3. Financial reports. Scrutinize financial reporting practices, says Palmer, because companies able to expedite and acquire accurate financial data on a timely basis can benchmark performance, reinforce successful practices and promptly correct mistakes.
4. Value-added marketing. This is key, says Palmer, because you must be able to discern why, in the mind of the customer, the company's products and services are preferred over the competitor's.
"You need to know if the customer cares more about your price, service or value-added ways you're improving your product, so you can focus your efforts to meet their needs."
5. Customer satisfaction. Does the business seek customer feedback to measure satisfaction as to what the company is doing right or wrong?
"Customer input is extremely valuable in measuring the success of a business."
6. Budgeting. A company that has a budget and sticks to it is a safe bet, says Palmer.
"It's like the proverbial road map -- you need a plan to get there."
7. Productivity and profitability. Any business has two or three key indicators that, if monitored daily, weekly and monthly, can measure profitability
"You can measure productivity, which leads to profitability, by considering simple things such as how many pounds per employee was produced this week, how many products were shipped this month, what is the percentage of waste off this line. These are critical success factors to monitor."
8. Employee retention and growth. In today's market, the No. 1 concern of business owners is how to retain employees and grow the business. The answer to these questions should weigh heavily in your decision to buy a business.
9. Management team. "What you're looking for is growth, and you need an existing management infrastructure to support growth and change," says Palmer. "Have the owners made that commitment to breadth and depth of management?"
10. Use of technology. Look around the company, says Palmer. If you don't see an obvious use of current technology, it's not a good sign. How to reach:Moore Stephens Apple, (330) 867-7350