The following staff members of Info Line Inc., Akron, have qualified as Certified Information and Referral Specialists: Roxanne Lange, Cheryl Cogley, Karen Elliott, Molly Hren, Nancy Milligan and Tonoa Walker.
The law firm Amer Cunningham Co. of Akron has as shareholders Joseph Cook Jr., Thomas Saxer, Michael Urban and Jack Weisensell. Kevin Csontos has joined the firm as CEO/comptroller.
The Akron Area Board of Realtors has installed as its 2001 officers Kristine Burdick of Realty One in Fairlawn; Stephen Merckle of Merckle Realty in Akron; and Sandy LoCascio of Realty One in Cuyahoga Falls.
The FirstMerit Bank board of directors promoted Wendy S. Bolas to senior vice president and retail sales manager for Summit and Portage counties and Barbara D. Mathews to senior vice president of administration and manager of public affairs for the Akron office.
Jones and Wenner Insurance Agency Inc., Fairlawn, named Robert C. Gehring III as vice president and director of marketing.
Bruner-Cox has added to its Akron office Karen Randall, manager in the tax department; Lisa M. Francis, associate in the general services department; and Misti Buchanan, associate in the report department.
Brian Bialik has joined the main office of Home Savings Bank of Kent as assistant vice president, commercial lending officer.
Akron law firm Brennan Manna & Diamond has promoted Mark E. Krohn and John F. Martin to partner. Frank A. Lettieri has been added as partner and Nickolas P. Andreeff as corporate business counsel.
Sedlak Management Consultants, Richfield, has promoted Dave Gealy to senior consultant and Elaine Cirino, Scott Gallik, Julie Heater and Brian Innes to consultant. In addition, seven associates have been named to the staff: Brian Drees, Rob Fink, Doug Bayer, Tim Davies, Leslie Butler, Mark Manti and Christina Urban.
James A. Popio has joined Smithers Scientific Services Inc. of Akron as general manager of its indoor tire and wheel testing operations at the firm's tire and automotive testing division in Ravenna.
SS&G Financial Services, Akron, has promoted Richard K. Warfield to director and Paula M. Steinhart to associate director. Susan Paley Zak has joined the firm as a senior consultant in the recruiting and human resource consulting department and Angela Callander has joined as administrative assistant. Kathleen M. Sautters, marketing director for SS&G, has been honored as the winner of the Distinguished Sales and Marketing Award.
Pamela Crutchfield has joined Kent-based Schlabig & Associates as a network administrator.
Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital has appointed Dr. Carl J. Simmers to its corporate board to fill a five-year term.
Waltco Truck Equipment Co., Tallmadge, has promoted Bill Rector to manager of distributor and OEM development; Joe Moran to inside sales supervisor; Randy Reid to western regional manager; and David Heatherington to manager of field sales. Clay Johnson has joined the company as district sales manager.
Pamela S. Rodriques has been named director of Premier Comp of HomeTown Health Network of Akron, the health insuring corporation's managed workers' compensation program. John Strah has been appointed director of business development; Deanna L. Kazamek has been named manager of business development; and Catherine S. Ambrose has been appointed case management/return-to-work manager.
The Urda Company Inc., an Akron-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm, has named Kristin Panning production/traffic manager.
Phillip Russo has joined Patio Enclosures Inc. of Macedonia as administrative manager of advertising.
Brockman, Coats, Gedalian & Co., Akron, has added Theresa Wilson as an administrative assistant.
Hitchcock Fleming and Associates of Akron has hired Dave Elwell as account manager.
Smythe, Cramer Co. has honored William P. Askin of the Akron office as manager of the year; Barbara E. Wilson of the Medina office as the Marcus L. Smythe professional of the year; and Kathleen A. Fenwick of the Akron office has been inducted into the circle of achievement.
Brewster & Stroud has named Linda Grimm as sales manager of the company's newest store in Montrose.
The anderson group of Akron, a regional business technology solutions provider, has hired Donna Kastner as client consultant.
S.A. Comunale Co. of Akron has hired Edward S. Belcastro as head of the new design build division and David A. Ross as head of the new service division. Vandi Dies has been promoted to division manager of the fabrication shop.
William E. Childers has been appointed vice president of the foundation and development divisions for Summa Health Systems of Akron.
Derek Lashua has been named marketing coordinator for Spectrum Surgical Instruments Corp. of Stow.
To submit notices of business expansions, additions and moves and management-level transitions, write: Editor, SBN Magazine, 84 W. Bowery St., Akron, OH 44308; or fax: (330) 535-6491.
You've most certainly noticed that the economy has shifted gears over the last few months. Companies are cutting back, tightening their purse strings.
And while the unemployment rate has been slowly rising from an historic low, I've observed a trend that seems to contradict the statistics economists are feeding us on a daily basis: Most companies are actually hiring right now.
That's right. As they tighten their budgets, they're still looking for good workers to fill critical roles. At the same time, their present employees are being asked to do more with less, and the need for skilled, results-oriented workers has become more of a priority.
If you're one of those companies looking for exceptional workers, you're probably not finding the worker pool you need from your classified ads. A new economy begs for a new way to take action. Here are some examples of what your peers are doing to attract new workers.
Akron's FirstEnergy Corp., a diversified energy utility operating company, comprises the nation's 10th largest electric system, serving 2.2 million customers. Deregulation, mergers and a unique challenge caused by the prediction that 40 percent of the company's work force will retire within the next eight years have forced management to look for new ways to find employees.
As a result, FirstEnergy is working with Lakeland Community College in Kirtland and Stark State College of Technology in Canton to develop a replacement strategy called Power Systems Institute. Students of the program spend half of their class time (2 and 1/2 days a week) at a FirstEnergy facility, receiving hands-on training from company instructors. The program takes 21 months to complete, and graduates are given special consideration for employment at FirstEnergy.
Many of the large auto dealers in Akron and Canton have already figured out how to grow their own qualified employees -- they have joined alliances with local technical schools to ensure the skills and training of their future employees. Over the years, it's been more difficult for auto and truck dealers to fully staff their service departments. Through these alliances, dealerships have been able to participate in educating future generation of mechanics.
And for those smaller- and mid-sized companies that may not have the financial resources to contribute to the education of future employees, Stark Truss Co. of Canton offers another solution. This growing company has maintained a tradition of hiring employees while they're still in high school. Many of those hired in their teens have grown through the ranks to reach management positions.
In addition, the company doesn't frown on nepotism. In fact, employees are encouraged to recommend family members for open positions. The theory is that relatives of Stark Truss employees already know the hard work that's expected of their family members. Connie Swenson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN Magazine.
Massillon Community Hospital and LaurusHealth have formed a partnership that will bring health information and patient education resources to consumers.
Scott Kline has established a local ProForma distributorship that will do business as ProForma Benchmark Business Systems in the printing, promotional products and personalized clothing industries. The company serves Stark, Summit, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
Avalon Distributing, a wholesale foodservice distributor in the Canton area, has been awarded ASI Food Safety Consultants' Certificate of Excellence in Food Safety.
DSW Shoe Warehouse, a national shoe retailer, has relocated to Dressler Road.
The accounting firm of Hall, Kistler & Co. of Canton has joined BKR International, an international association of independent accounting firms.
Rea and Associates Inc., a regional accounting and business consulting firm with an office in New Philadelphia, is offering new profit and value enhancement services to better serve its clients
Many owners cite the work ethic and the good deeds of their employees when explaining their company's success.
And while no owner would dare say his or her employees have no impact on the bottom line, few could admit to having the role Scott Robertson has in hand-picking the people who work for his company, Robertson Heating Supply.
Robertson not only attributes his company's success to his employees, he believes so strongly in the impact each person can have that he personally takes part in the interview and selection process of each employee. And with 240 positions, including 100 he labels as key management, that's a big responsibility.
Robertson, who majored in personnel management in college, has been president of the family-owned company since taking over from his grandfather in 1991.
"Over the years, we have built the company with people who are high on integrity and honesty -- down-home type people who are customer-friendly," he says.
He says finding the right people takes more time and requires more of a commitment from managers, but the results are worth it.
"Our top managers understand that an employee's attitude will far outweigh what we can teach," he says. "We can change or improve an employee's knowledge of a job or of the industry, but we're less likely to be able to change your attitude or work ethic."
Maintaining a turnover rate of less than 5 percent is just one of the benefits the time-consuming search process offers.
Robertson Heating Supply's sales jumped from $55 million in 1994 to nearly $80 million last year. And with a fully automated distribution system in the works, including a distribution center in Alliance that is completely bar coded, Robertson expects sales to continue to rise.
The company was founded in 1934 by John Robertson, Scott's grandfather, out of a warehouse in Alliance. Since then, the plumbing and heating wholesale company has expanded into 27 locations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including two retail lighting centers in Columbus and Belden Village. Since 1994, the company has acquired two wholesalers and opened three wholesale outlets in Wooster, Sheffield Lake and Toledo.
Robertson says most of his family still works for the company on a part-time basis -- including his father, Ed, as vice president -- while he and his sister, Sue Neil, a corporate secretary, work full-time. How to reach: Robertson Heating Supply, (330) 821-9180
Charles M. Hilterbrand Jr. has been named president of Alpha Land Title Co. of Canton.
United National Bank & Trust Co. of Canton has promoted Christopher Gemma to assistant vice president, collections. Bridget Dix has joined the company as a business banking officer.
Hall, Kistler & Co., a certified public accounting and consulting firm based in downtown Canton, has promoted Karen M. Marker to the position of partner.
Avalon Distributing of Canal Fulton has added Bonnie Willis as nutrition services manager and Melissa Hohman as buyer/merchandiser in the purchasing department.
North Canton resident Tod T. Morrow has joined Akron law firm Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs as a shareholder in its litigation, employment law and workers' compensation practice groups in the Canton office.
Anna Marie Mavrakis has been named president of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Interior Design Society.
Jack Gravo, president and CEO of FirstMerit Corp. of Akron, has been named to the National Advisory Council of Fannie Mae, the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages.
The Hoover Co. has named Stephen K. Pollock vice president of finances and Timothy D. Schiltz vice president of human resources.
Barbara Waltz Eisenbrei of Canton has been certified as a specialist in the field of family relations law in Ohio.
Massillon Community Hospital has added Roselyn A. Manus to the associate medical staff. She has been granted privileges in internal medicine.
Douglas Malcolm, of The Malcolm Insurance Group of North Canton, participated in the Professional Insurance Agents of Ohio 2001 Legislative Conference. The event allowed professional insurance agents to gather at the Capitol to discuss important legislative and regulatory issues with lawmakers and other officials.
Remember when Viceroy claimed its smokers "would rather fight than switch?"
If you'd rather fight, you should litigate. However, if you think that a less contentious and less costly approach to resolving disputes is desirable, you're probably a candidate for mediation.
Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which a neutral person assists the disagreeing parties in finding a mutually acceptable solution. Mediation is best described as facilitated negotiation.
Parties in dispute can mediate at any time. Successful prelitigation mediation can save litigation-related expenses, the emotional toll associated with going to court, and the relationship, if that is important, of the parties.
Any dispute can be mediated. The only requirement is that each party be willing to discuss its issues. Parties who can successfully mediate include employer/employee, business/supplier, business/business and consumer/business.
If disputes involving your business become contentious, your business can experience a disruption. Business relationships may be severed. Customers may take their business to a competitor.
The workplace is rife with potential for not only employer/employee conflict but also management conflict. Many small businesses are made up of family members or a small group of owners. If an internal dispute arises among management, the distraction can affect profits.
A leadership team in conflict damages employee morale and productivity. In the early stages of a dispute, before tempers flare and positions harden, why not propose mediation?
Mediation has the unique potential to simultaneously resolve the dispute and improve relationships. A skilled mediator will help the parties analyze the concerns that underlie disputed issues. When each side hears the concerns of the other(s), each may discover the disputed issues can be easily resolved. If they can't be, the mediator will help them explore options. Mediation has a high potential to resolve the dispute if the parties are motivated to find a solution.
For example, small business owners may determine that they can no longer continue their business relationship. Business owners who mediate a business dissolution will save an enormous expenditure of time and money.
In mediation, the parties in conflict control their destiny and make their own decisions. A properly conducted mediation can begin to mend fractured relationships.
Investing in mediation can save the significant expense associated with other dispute resolution forums.
Robert G. Reese is a Canton-based attorney and mediator. As a career Secret Service agent, he developed fact-finding skills (in addition to protecting presidents), and has expertise in resolving all types of disputes. He can be reached at (330) 491-9999.
In a world of pure imagination, all things are possible, and if Ken Keuchel had an alter ego, it would probably be Willy Wonka.
Keuchel's 27,000-square-foot manufacturing area at Spunfab Ltd. in Cuyahoga Falls is as awesome as the fictional character's chocolate factory. But instead of a bizarre Wonkavator that churns out Everlasting Gobstoppers, Keuchel's extraordinary gadgetry produces a specialty product called a hot-melt adhesive web, which supplies unlimited markets.
The process starts with fine polymer pellets, ground and melted in an unusual, two-story extrusion apparatus. The hot, liquefied substance is squeezed through a series of holes in an extruder, which sprays the filaments onto a conveyer system.
These molten fibers fuse to form a sheer, web-like fabric. After being stretched to a specific thickness and cut to various widths, this nonwoven dry adhesive web is supplied in a roll, tape or sheet form.
Now imagine the markets. Spunfab's lightweight webs can bond materials such as textiles, foams, wood, metal, glass and plastics. Manufacturers at home and abroad (primarily European markets including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux region) use them to bond and laminate everything from the foam rubber in ballistic tank covers to the reinforcement panels in Victoria's Secret bras.
Shoemakers use Spunfab webs in hiking boots and sport shoes. Garment manufacturers apply the bonding and antifray capabilities in garment construction, such as belt loops, trim and appliqu. Automotive uses range from bonded seat components to door panels. Spunfab's webs are used for bonding fabric and leather to foam and felt, aluminum to vinyl, backing scrims to fabric, wood, veneer and cork -- the possibilities are infinite.
With limitless choices in his unlimited market, Keuchel is like a kid in a candy store. But as president of Spunfab, his greatest challenge lies in a systematic approach to securing these markets, while controlling his growth.
"It's easy to grow when you're small, but every business evolves, and when you get to a certain size, you need larger growth opportunities to continue at the same percentage growth," says Keuchel, 38.
Since starting Spunfab in 1987, Keuchel has had to constantly rethink his growth strategy.
"You can become overwhelmed and grow too fast by approaching things wildly, and it's hard to restrain yourself from going after all the possible sales," he says. "But you really have to take control and find a systematic approach to growth, or things get out of hand."
Let's go fly a kite
Imagination is the highest kite you can fly, and Keuchel says that if not for his father, Spunfab wouldn't be a high-flying firm.
Herb Keuchel, a Spunfab consultant, has been playing the polymer game since the early '60s, having previously owned a successful polymer engineering and research consultancy. After selling his company in 1979, he independently developed a patented engineering process for nonwoven fabrics.
In 1987, several customers in the industry prodded him to get back into business to service their technical and product development needs.
"Dad told them he wasn't interested in manufacturing, but he might know somebody who was," says Keuchel, who was at that time finishing his graduate studies in polymer engineering at the University of Akron.
"That's when my father called me and said, 'I've got a new process you can use to make adhesive, nonwoven fabrics,'" Keuchel recalls. "He said he'd help me transition the process, try it on a few customers he had lined up, and if it worked out, we'd take it to the next phase and I'd have myself a manufacturing company."
There was one snag. The graduate student had already accepted a position at General Electric Co. in New York.
"When I called them to quit a month before I started, they wished me well, sent my name plate to me and said they'd re-extend the job offer if I ever wanted it," Keuchel says. "I kept the name plate and put it on my door here."
Keuchel's connections with the University of Akron benefited Spunfab's early launch and ongoing research and development endeavors. Today, he continues to rely on the university's Applied Research Facility in the Polymer Science Building for analyses and other needs. But like Willy Wonka, he has his own fancy technology, fascinating to Spunfab visitors.
"People who come here are fascinated by the breadth of application in our lab. We're doing an intimate apparel application next to a carbon fiber composite application, a medical application next to a ballistic tank cover, and so on. The range of processes and products blows them away," Keuchel says.
Considering Spunfab's 10 different markets and its international dynamic, one might assume the company boasts several hundred million dollars in sales. Keuchel won't reveal his revenue but does say he captures one-third share of the markets he serves. The challenge is in choosing which markets to target and managing the overwhelming response resulting from product releases and trade show exhibits.
One week, Keuchel will exhibit at a nonwovens conference, and three weeks later at a textiles conference. The following month, he's exhibiting at an automotive trade show. There are cloth and fabric trade shows, composites shows, filters shows. With so much ground to cover, a strategic focus is crucial.
"We have to approach each of these markets systematically and cover them, but we can't just grab every application out there,'" he says.
When contemplating requests to supply certain markets, Keuchel consults his checklist: Why should we consider that market? Can we readily produce that product? If not, what technology must we invest in, and what's the cost to get into that market? Do we have the in-house expertise to develop that process? What about competition? Would the margins be there? Can we actually fulfill this market need?
"We could enter several markets that might literally double our business just by approaching them, but if we hooked a big fish and lost that one customer after acquiring debt to accommodate it, we could possibly lose our entire business," he says. "It might look like a good growth opportunity, but sometimes we just have to forego it."
Keuchel's philosophy resulted from hard lessons learned. Initially, he targeted traditional markets for his adhesive webs, such as garment and automotive industries. As his trade show activities increased, so did the opportunities he saw. Textiles. Filters. Industrial applications. Medical markets. Even wet suits. Excited, he reached for the brass ring -- and fell flat on his face.
At Keuchel's first composite show exhibit, he was hammered about making composites for compounded bicycles, carbon fiber-reinforced airplane parts and the like. He admits he was completely unprepared for the composites industry, lacking an understanding of its applicable technology.
At his first filters show, similar demands involved FDA-approved products, for which he was unprepared.
"We had to scramble to look at our existing product line and determine if we could actually develop products for the filters market. That wasn't very smart, and we learned from that," he says.
If only he had thoroughly surveyed the filters market and understood it better, he says he would have proactively obtained FDA approval for certain products, and could have closed on sales at the show.
"Now I firmly believe in walking a show first for a couple of years to understand the market and be prepared for that industry," he says. "It's a matter of selecting the right trade show and knowing that once I exhibit in that market, I'll have to deal with the response from that particular industry.
"If I can't, I've excited potential customers who will just find someone else to fill their needs."
Fine-tuning and forecasting
Some entrepreneurs take big risks by "shotgunning" a new product. Keuchel says that tactic backfires.
"What happens if you introduce a new product and it turns out you can't really produce it yet? You lose your reputation, that's what," he says.
That's why Keuchel takes on one customer, with one application, watching the product "go through the system" for three or four production runs.
"We may do that for six months, fine-tuning our process, getting experience with several runs before we decide to turn it over for standard production and target a broader customer base," he says. "This also makes you more confident in your ability to make it on a larger scale."
The practice resulted from a lesson learned in Spunfab's development of an electrometric fabric for the wet suit industry. Customers literally wanted to stretch the fabric beyond its structural capacity, and Keuchel was swamped with orders to revamp the product.
"We got a couple of black eyes in the wet suit and orthopedic markets, because when you're the only producer of that product and a customer invested in equipment for you to try and make it, you have a bad reputation at that point with that customer if you can't do it," he says. "We've since perfected that product, but it took us two or three years to do so."
Keuchel also learned it's crucial to forecast -- not just product cycles, but capacity. He painfully recalls when Spunfab ran out of capacity five years ago. In moving to his current facility, he discovered he hadn't planned well enough. The new building wasn't completed on time, but because he had already sold his former building, he had to vacate.
"In the process of shutting down the machines there and starting them up here, our business increased by 25 percent, but we couldn't supply those new customers because we had a hard time supplying our existing ones," he says. "It hurts to think of all the business we lost during that time."
Consequently, Spunfab operated hand-to-mouth for about a year.
"Now I constantly analyze to make sure we have excess capacity, so I'll never be out of capacity again," he says.
Keuchel says he currently sits on expansion plans that will enable him to expand by 50 percent in a four-to five-month period, and obtain the necessary machinery within two months.
"All these lessons were important because the whole point is that if you excite a market but cannot supply it, that opens up opportunities for competitors," Keuchel counsels. "Even though you've done the legwork and you've laid it out, if all of a sudden you land a big fish but can't supply them, you're sunk."
"As your company matures and grows to a certain size, you have two choices: You can either hire a professional manager or you can make yourself into a professional manager," Keuchel says.
It takes a wise man to admit his weaknesses, and as Spunfab matured, so did he.
"We were experiencing tremendous growth and I recognized a gap in trying to be a scientist and a businessperson," he says. "I understood the products and the processes, but I lacked business ability."
To meet his own needs, Keuchel completed the owner/president management program at Harvard University, spending three weeks a year there between 1995 and 1997. The payoff came in '97, when Keuchel earned the Governor's Excellence in Exporting Award for a five-year revenue growth in exports. And in 1999, Spunfab won a Cascade Development Corp. award for revenue growth over five years.
"Back then, we were averaging about 26 percent growth per year. We've slowed our growth since then, so averaged over the last five years, it would be about 14 percent per year," he says.
All along, Keuchel's quest has been to secure myriad markets while controlling his growth. Now, with polished processes, a firm market foothold and 58 employees, he doesn't have to pull the lever on unrestrained growth.
With a chuckle, Keuchel admits, "Given the economy of 2001, that's controlling the growth for us!" How to reach: Spunfab Ltd. (330) 945-9455; www.spunfab.com
Victoria Reynolds is a contributing editor for SBN Magazine.
Certified Payroll Services, Fairlawn, has hired Jodi Ninnemann as a payroll specialist.
Shields, Blice & Co., a Fairlawn-based accounting firm, has added Denise Jute to its staff.
BC Technology Solutions, with offices in Canton and Akron, has added Tamara L. Flanigan as a software consultant.
The Akron office of SS&G Financial Services has hired Tami Whatley as associate, capital markets department.
The board of trustees of the Akron Civic Theatre has named Diane Kalgreen director of finance and operations.
Americas International Inc. of Akron has hired Anita Kelly as office manager.
Delta Systems Inc. of Streetsboro, a manufacturer of specialized switches and electronics, has hired David Giangardella, production engineer; Jason Hamilton, design technician; Kent Kovachy, process engineer; and Roger O'Conner, sales and marketing assistant.
The Akron-based law firm of Brennan, Manna & Diamond has hired attorneys Nickolas P. Andreef, Frank A. Lettieri, John F. Martin, David V. DiFiore and Darrin R. Toney.
Republic Technologies, Fairlawn, has named Louis J. Capuano as plant manager of its Lorain facility.
Waltco Truck Equipment Co. of Tallmadge has hired Dick Sullivan as Midwest regional sales manager and Doug Card as New England district sales representative.
Cutler/GMAC Real Estate has hired as sales associates Linda Walker in the Norton office; Steve Kelly in the Stow office; and Daniel Brown in the Fairlawn office.
David A. Brockman, director of business and assurance services and a co-founder of Akron law firm Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co., has been named chair-elect of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co. has hired Gigi Doney as administrative assistant in the systems group; Marti Kline as a tax professional in tax services; Eileen Koborie as marketing assistant; Stephanie Lane as a senior developer; and Ronne Sidwell as receptionist.
FirstMerit Investment Services Inc., a subsidiary of FirstMerit Corp., has promoted Marc Vosen to executive vice president; Gregory Poe to vice president/sales manager; Jeffrey Arvay to vice president/senior financial consultant; and Eric Walden to vice president/financial consultant.
Akron General Medical Center has named Cindy Dennison as director of Network Health Ventures/Network Health Group Financial Services.
Results Plus and Focus Four, a professional development training firm based in Brunswick, has hired Karl Dustman as director of business development and Jeffrey Taylor and Tom Trefz as professional account executives.
Tod T. Morrow has joined Akron law firm Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs as a shareholder in the litigation, employment law and workers' compensation practice groups at the Canton office.
Jim Divito has joined Kent Adhesive Products Co. as a sales representative for the Southeastern United States.
Smithers Scientific Services Inc. of Akron has named Raymond B. Farmer vice president of the automotive testing division and David L. Schwarz vice president of the component and materials testing division.
CBIZ/Spector & Saulino, Akron, has added Michelle Drago to its tax department.
Country Pure Foods of Akron, one of the largest independent juice manufacturers, has created the new position of director of information technology, taken over by Stuart Clink. In addition, the company promoted Bob Gats to senior vice president of sales and marketing; Andy Major to vice president of supply chain management; and Liz Wilson to vice president of finance. Paul Sukalich has joined the company as senior vice president of operations.
BCG Systems Inc. of Akron, the computer services affiliate of Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co., has added Ryan Jacops to its staff as senior software developer.
Avatar Management Services Inc. of Macedonia, a human performance consulting firm, has promoted Linda M. Gardner to president. Gardner also acquires controlling interest in Avatar, allowing the consulting firm to become a full-fledged woman-owned business.
Jon V. Heider of Akron was appointed to the University of Akron Board of Trustees, replacing Clifford J. Isroff of Akron, who resigned.
Jack Gravo, president and CEO of FirstMerit Corp. of Akron, has been named to the National Advisory Council of Fannie Mae, the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages.
The law firm of Brouse McDowell, Akron, has added Richard T. Cunningham to its litigation and appellate practice.
Virtual Horizons Inc., a multimedia communications, Web site design and development company based in Akron, has promoted Jeremy Leyden to director of operations and business development and Tracy Lockhart to director of marketing.
Lenny Winer, computer information technology specialist with the Fairlawn-based accounting and medical practice management firm of Winer & Bevilacqua Inc., has earned the title of Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.
Paul Labovitz of Akron was reappointed to the Ohio Water Advisory Council for a term ending Feb. 1, 2003.
To submit notices of business expansions, additions and moves and management-level transitions, write Editor, SBN Magazine, 175 Montrose West Ave., Ste. 160, Akron, OH 44321; or fax (330) 668-6224.
If free expert advice were available to you on one of the most important areas of your business, any time of the day, and as close as your phone, would you use it?
Even though it is available, many companies don't take advantage of one of the most valuable resources they have.
If you're thinking I'm going to say your customers, you're only partially correct. That's because you'll probably find more useful advice comes from your ex-customers. Unless they no longer need your product or service, something enticed them to switch to one of your competitors -- and wouldn't you like to know what that was?
One of the most competitive new industries is the cellular phone industry. It seems as if everyone's trying to get your business with special air time and equipment deals that change daily. As a loyal GTE customer for many years, I made the decision to switch providers after GTE became Alltel last fall and suddenly service started to falter.
I think phone service is one of those commodities that you don't give much thought to until things start to go wrong. Suddenly, I was waiting on hold for half-hour periods, no one knew who the local rep was who had sold me the phone, or who had replaced him.
With competition so fierce, the decision to switch was easy, especially since I knew of a local entrepreneurial company that acted as an agent for both Sprint and Nextel. I had a choice of two national cellular providers, backed by local customer service reps who report directly to the owner of the company.
When I called Alltel to tell them I was dissatisfied and ready to cancel my service, they did what you'd expect a company to do: the rep on the other end of the phone tried to dissuade me. In fact, she was so adamant about keeping my business, she told me that if I left, I would be billed $300 in addition to my normal monthly rate because I broke a contract. No questions about why I wanted to cancel, just a threat.
I was confused. The only contract I signed was three-and-a-half years ago, for a two-year term. No matter how you do the math, it clearly had expired. "No," she replied. "You renewed the contract for another two years when you called last fall to adjust your rate plan."
While I knew how outrageous this was, because I certainly would never have agreed to another contract with Alltel, I tried for a month after that to find the right person within the company to talk to about it. The two sales reps I'd dealt with locally at various times were long gone. No one at the company's 800 number had the authority to even discuss my predicament.
When I asked to be transferred to a supervisor, I was told to call the manager of a local Alltel store. The sounded a bit strange to me, since I had never even stepped foot into an Alltel store, but I followed the advice. It must have sounded strange to that store manager, too, because she wouldn't return my calls.
I'm still trying to reach someone at that company who has the authority to act reasonably. While I want to get that fee waived from my account, I'd also like to tell them, as an ex-customer this time, to take a look at one of the greatest employee handbooks ever written.
It's the handbook for Nordstrom employees, but it's not about selling shoes. It's just one piece of paper that simply says, "Use your good judgment at all times." Connie Swenson (email@example.com) is editor of SBN Magazine.