I know how you feel. Running a growing organization is enough to keep anyone busy. The demands on our time from employees, suppliers and clients increase every day. That’s why we designed a unique publication.
After 17 years in the publishing business, we know to listen to our readers. The publication you hold in your hands the 16th in our growing chain and the third in Florida is the result of all our listening. Here is what readers like you told us they want in a local management journal.
1. Big minds, big ideas. Smart Business Tampa Bay taps into the top local business minds. In this issue, our cover story tells how CEO Keith Sirois turned around Checkers Drive-In Restaurants by building a culture of operational excellence.
Smart Leaders, featuring thoughts from top local executives, showcases Jim Abrams, whose $180million Clockwork Home Services is his fifth highly successful business venture, including one public company.
Finally, Fast Lane features Bonefish Grill President John Cooper explaining how the business model of parent company Outback Steakhouse helped drive 100 restaurant openings in less than six years. In the coming months, you’ll hear from the best business minds in Tampa Bay on issues ranging from leadership to motivation to innovation.
2. Go to the source. To get the latest thoughts on best practices in business, we partner with key local service providers in areas including banking, benefits, education, legal affairs and real estate. They have front-line experience with the issues facing middle-market companies in the Tampa Bay area.
3. Keep it short. Most articles in Smart Business Tampa Bay fill just a page or two. Only our cover stories are longer because they delve into the management styles and strategies of top executives. And we plan to keep our page count low so you don’t have to fight to find articles you are looking for.
You will find these three principles carried throughout the premiere issue of Smart Business Tampa Bay and every subsequent issue just as our readers have come to expect from our other award-winning publications for the last 17 years.
So why are you getting our management journal? Because of your success in building a business to middle-market status or your senior management role at a larger company that values the middle market. I hope you enjoy our premiere issue. And I invite you to share your feedback with me.
FRED KOURY is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at email@example.com or (800) 988-4726.
We all are searching for that perfect person, the one who represents all of our views and who will fight to make sure what we believe in takes center stage, but we are living in an imperfect world.
There is no ideal leader. There isn't anyone who has the solution to all the problems that we think are important.
John Kerry is a qualified candidate with a lot of political experience, but he is also an unknown factor when it comes to business. We don't know what direction he would take toward business policies if elected president. With George Bush, we have four years of history to examine.
For the business community, the best choice is George W. Bush. We know what we are getting. He is a controversial leader, but he sticks to his convictions and has proven he is pro-business. He's led us out of one of the worst recessions in decades, cut taxes and even refunded some of our money.
Consider the following accomplishments.
* Bush has reduced taxes for 25 million small businesses. He has quadrupled the amount small businesses can deduct for investments to $100,000 each year and is phasing out the death tax. On average, small businesses have received $3,001 in tax relief.
* Bush supports the enactment of medical liability reform, class action lawsuit reform and asbestos litigation reform to expedite resolutions and curb the costs lawsuits impose on American businesses.
* Bush has slowed the growth of burdensome new rules by 75 percent while still moving forward with crucial safeguards for homeland security and health care.
* Bush signed into law new free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore that will enable U.S. manufacturers to compete on a level playing field.
* Bush has achieved a higher Small Business Optimism Index rating than when he took office.
Bush's goals are clear: He wants to create an environment that is conducive to good business. Business leaders and organizations nationwide are supporting the Bush campaign because they know that, for business, he is the better choice.
From a political standpoint, there are two choices on the ballot in November. From a business standpoint, there is only one.
Vote for George Bush on Nov. 2 to make America a better place to do business.
Today, as the business climate becomes more competitive, we are forced to multitask if we want to be well-rounded in all areas of our life.
But multitasking doesn't account for unforeseen events that throw us off. It could be an illness or death in the family, a project at work that unexpectedly comes up or a well-laid plan gone awry. These can affect us in a number of different ways.
We can be receptive, embrace the unexpected as part of life and accept the good with the bad, or we can become angry and embittered and look at this event as something we didn't ask for that was imposed upon us.
Two different people can have the same event happen to them and react in two completely different ways. It all has to do with attitude.
Here are four ideas to help keep the event in the right perspective.
1. Accept the reality. We cannot control circumstances around us. As much as we'd like to be in control of everything, we are not. It is important to realize this and take it to heart.
2. Take an inventory to put things in perspective. Look at all that we have. We live in America, we have freedom and we have nice cars and a place to live. Two billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day. This exercise puts in perspective how much we really have.
3. Sacrifice is important. It's not always about us. In the military, a soldier would never leave an injured soldier on the field to die by himself. Sometimes we can get too self-absorbed and forget about the needs of others.
4. Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes we need to put on our game face and make the best of it. Look at the unexpected as a temporary setback from our own agenda. This may surprise us to our own benefit.
The true test of character will come for all of us sooner or later. When it does, remember that people are watching. It is important, especially in a leadership role, to be a good example for those around you.
This name has served us well as we have transformed our company from Small Business News Inc. to Smart Business Network Inc. However, we decided it was time for our magazine to take on a title that clearly expresses what we are all about.
There was really only one choice: Smart Business.
These two words say a lot. The name describes what everybody wants their company to be.
Since our launch 14 years ago as Small Business News, we have sought to provide business owners and top decision-makers with solutions to the challenges of growing a company. We have mined the best business minds in the region for their ideas for growing and managing companies -- from ways to increase revenue or control costs to hiring and retaining the best employees.
Through the years, the concept of smart ideas has become an integral part of our magazine and our company. In 1999, we dropped the Small Business News name, going with the now familiar SBN flag and adding our tag line of "Smart Ideas for Growing Companies."
At the beginning of 2002, we introduced our Smart Ideas section, devoted to providing a concise resource of best practices and winning strategies in key areas of business -- accounting, finance, health care, human resources and technology, to a name a few.
At the same time, we decided we needed to change our corporate name to bring it more in line with our corporate and editorial mission. Our new corporate name -- Smart Business Network Inc. -- reflects not only our role of providing smart ideas to area business people, but also our role in building stronger business networks throughout the community through our Internet site, www.sbnonline.com, and our conferences and events.
I hope you will agree with us that our new name, Smart Business, is a reflection of the ideas and principles we bring to you every month throughout the pages of the magazine.
This bothered me for several reasons. First, I don't appreciate e-mails of this nature being sent to our business. Second, we have been receiving them for some time. And I had no clue we were receiving them.
Just when you think you have a good handle on the business, you find out about something like this and feel pretty stupid.
I suggest doing an internal survey to see what kind of information your employees are receiving in their e-mail. If they are receiving offensive or unsolicited material, it may be time to try to reduce the problem.
Here are several steps you can take to cut down the amount of unsolicited e-mails, or spam, your company receives.
* Filter your mail server. Talk to your IT department about applying filters that will help prevent some spam from ever reaching your computer. The IP addresses of known spammers can be blocked to prevent future mailings. There are also RBLs, or Real Time Black Lists, of known spammers your mail server will scan before accepting mail.
* Filter your computer. As a last line of defense, you can install antispam software such as McAfee Spam Killer or Norton Internet Security, which help identify and block spam with little effort on your part.
* Go on the offensive. Contact the spammer's Internet Service Provider and report the abuse. This sounds simple, but oftentimes the real return address is hidden or filtered, and it takes some know-how to find the original source. Contact your own ISP. ISPs can bring legal action against spammers and collect up to $500,000 in damages.
* Demand restitution from the spammer. According to an Ohio law that went into effect in November, penalties of $100 for each piece of spam and up to $50,000 and attorney's fees, court and other costs can be recovered by companies subjected to illegal, unsolicited commercial e-mail.
* Contact your representatives. Tougher laws against spam are needed at the federal level. Contact your representatives and tell them spam is costing your business time and money.
Spam has become a major problem. Instead of focusing on our business, we are dealing with unsolicited e-mails containing offensive pornography, gambling offers and get-rich-quick schemes. Think about how much time and money we waste deleting unwanted e-mails, setting up filtering systems or handling employee complaints. This is time and money that should be focused on business, not spam.
Let's hope that tougher laws will be passed that will put the spammers out of business and allow us to get back to work.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are left searching for answers-again. How could this shooting take place? In the 15 years of Kinkel's life, what could have brought him to such a point? And why the earlier killings in Paducah, Ky. and Jonesboro, Ark., involving children as young as 11? What is leading kids to commit such crimes?
The knee-jerk reaction is to simply ban all guns. But guns merely allow these kids to act upon their inner rage, their use is just a symptom of a deeper underlying spiritual disease. Is this just the beginning? Is our society on the verge of plunging into anarchy?
To find the answer, we needn't look far away.
Capitalism harnesses self-interest, the desire to profit, to produce goods and services which communities need. Problems arise, however, when certain products are designed to destroy communities from within. And some companies are especially at fault.
The next time you have a chance, study the lyrics of some popular music groups. Marilyn Manson, a self-avowed anti-Christian satanist, is one such "artist" with a rabid following among suburban teenagers. In his album "Portrait of an American Family," you'll find a song entitled "Lunchbox," which portrays a schoolyard shooting:
Wanna go out, gotta get out
to the playground, gonna throw down at the playground.
I wanna go out
next motherf--- gonna get my metal
pow, pow, pow.
Harmless words? That's what many maintain. Unfortunately, these supposedly harmless words are being converted into violent action with increasing frequency. The lyrics of rappers promote the use of guns and murder as the solution to problems, and some companies are making short-term profits as a result. But if society starts to collapse from this short-sighted activity, we will all suffer from the lack of corporate morality.
No one is immune from the effects of this appalling lack of discretion. The chairman of Time Warner, Gerald Levin, recently lost his son Jonathan to violence. A gifted teacher in New York, the younger Levin was gunned down by one of his students. It was an especially bitter irony that Time Warner had been involved in distributing the album "Cop Killer," which suggested blowing away police officers as a method for solving one's problems. The company eventually divested the division which produced this trash, but only after heavy pressure from police, the black community and anti-violence crusader Bill Bennett.
The real question, though, is this: Why did these executives get involved in these illicit products in the first place? Are we forever doomed to letting potential profits blind us to our moral responsibilities for the larger communities in which we live?
I think companies ought to be held responsible for the messages they convey. They shouldn't be permitted to hide behind the curtain of free speech even as they help destroy the society in which we all live. We should be outraged at the irresponsible manner in which profits are earned at the expense of all of us. Why wait until we hear about our child or nephew killed in a senseless act of violence? Why not, instead, act now to head off tragedy?
In our schools, children should be taught a code of moral standards, a benchmark-such as the Ten Commandments-for their conduct.
The important thing is to replace in our kids' lives the ceaseless rant of popular culture with the splendor of truths built on firmer foundations. After all, it's only in an orderly and morally centered world that business will flourish and grow.
Fred Koury is CEO of Small Business News Inc. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine a fish raised in a fish bowl. Its entire existence is enclosed in about one cubic square foot of water. In this environment the fish is content to live out its life, unaware of the world outside. The fish is limited by walls. This is the box we need to escape from if we want to excel.
When we think outside the box, a million-dollar idea can seem so simple. We have to reach beyond our self-imposed walls of limitations. If we don't, we'll get left behind.
Think about how the first airplane was invented. While airplanes have only existed since the beginning of this century, the technology has been around before man. The Wright brothers imitated the balance and aerodynamics of a bird's wing in their design. They were one of the first to look beyond mankind's self-imposed limitations, and to see the relationship, and possibilities, in applying nature to industry.
In 1954, as a 52-year-old milkshake machine vendor was visiting one of his restaurant customers in San Bernardino, Calif., he witnessed a unique food assembly line system that two brothers had developed. Immediately recognizing the potential of their idea, he offered to pay them a percentage of their gross receipts. The brothers agreed, and the vendor set up a copy of their restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., on April 15, 1955. That year, he opened two more restaurants, and within the next six years he had opened 228 more stores. The brothers, Maurice and Richard McDonald, and the milkshake machine salesman, Ray Kroc, have permanent places in U.S. history. The lesson? Sometimes all it takes is a simple idea to make the difference between minor and historic success.
I recognize that thinking outside our walls can be difficult. In today's fast-paced environment, the one thing that most people lack is time. We're always rushed to make decisions, and the urgency of accomplishing the immediate naturally rises to the top of our priority list. What we don't realize is that this mentality encourages us to act like gerbils on a wheel, spinning in circles but not really going anywhere. Therefore, it is important to be able to take ourselves outside of the picture at times to look at things objectively. When we train ourselves to be more open-minded, we open doors to Ray Kroc's level of success.
I've found from experience that continual learning helps maintain an open mindset. We need to remind ourselves to invest time in learning, no matter our age. For example, history has a marvelous habit of repeating itself. By reading about history we gain various perspectives on how people respond to certain situations, and we can learn from their successes and mistakes. I, for one, read the Bible. It helps me broaden my perspective on life, and it provides a personal resource for me in finding new-yet ancient-ways of viewing and responding to situations.
There are other resources that can aid us in tearing down our walls. A source we deal with in business each day is our vendors. When you think that those vendors are probably dealing with six or seven other businesses like yours on a daily basis, they suddenly represent a great resource. They see and hear all the latest innovations taking place in our industries. How do you treat these people? Are they like flies waiting to be swatted, or do you see them as valuable team members?
Maybe the next great idea you'll encounter will come from one of your employees. How are you treating them?
Our attitude can be the direct cause of failure or great success. Treating people respectfully is one way of breaking down our walls. And it's an easy way to start climbing out of our box.
Fred Koury is CEO of SBN. He welcomes your comments at fkouryAsbnnet.com.
The term revolutionary is defined as someone engaged in the act of revolt. It carries connotations of extremist or radical behavior. Even in the most conservative light, the thought of revolting against the ideas and norms of our peers and society makes most people uncomfortable.
But as history has proven, if we want to reach the pinnacle of success, we need to be a willing revolutionary. The ability to revolt against limitations set before us is the mountain true leaders must climb.
The year was 1863, Abraham Lincoln was president of the North and only two out of eight Americans lived in cities. Jefferson Davis was president of the 11 states of the Confederacy. During this time, a child was born in Dearborn, Mich., who would transform America from an agricultural to an industrial powerhouse. He worked with his father on the farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse. At 16, he left home for nearby Detroit to find work in a machine shop. There, he came in contact with an internal combustion engine. Young Henry Ford began to dream and think revolutionary thoughts.
Ford was determined to build a gasoline-powered vehicle. In 1893, he built his first gasoline-powered engine. Three years later, he made his first horseless carriage, known as the Quadricycle.
He exhausted his early investors, who saw the horseless carriage as a vehicle for the wealthy, because he insisted on providing quality at an affordable price. He left the company later known as Cadillac Motors, and built a new company, Ford Motor Co. When he introduced the Model T, he promised, I will build a motor car for the great multitude. His goal was revolutionary, and forced him to look for solutions.
In management, we hear such terms as on-time delivery and think of them as recent innovations in manufacturing. A study of the early Ford Motor Co. shows Ford designed an on-time assembly system that allowed his company to manufacture a chassis eight times faster than the competition. By dividing labors and coordinating operations in his manufacturing, he accomplished huge gains in productivity.
Ford was also a revolutionary in worker relations. While most employers paid employees the lowest wage possible, Ford viewed his employees as potential customer and paid them twice the going rate: $5 per day instead of the $2.34 rate for the industry. He also instituted a profit sharing plan that distributed up to $30 million annually to his employees. His employees now had the money to buy the cars they were building.
Overnight, Ford became a worldwide celebrity. By combining precision manufacturing with a continuously moving assembly line, Ford Motor Co. could produce a car every 24 seconds. And the Model T, which sold for $950 in 1908, could be purchased for $290 in 1927. More than 15 million cars were sold before the Model T was discontinued in 1928.
Today, a similar revolution is transforming the U.S. from an industrial/service economy to an information economy. Fords success was not an accident but a predetermined path which he chose. He sought to reach a market that no one else could see and found a way to help the market afford the product.
Revolutionary thinking is what transforms society and the world. But this form of thinking usually involves leaving our comfort zone. Those who refuse to be revolutionary in their thinking end up becoming followers in the marketplace.
The Internet is a great example. Amazon.com has a valuation of $10 billion, while Barnes & Noble, the nations largest chain of booksellers, has a valuation of $2 billion. Amazon has no bookstores, Barnes & Noble has more than 1,100 stores. The difference is Amazon.com was founded on revolutionary principles. The Internet is filled with revolutionaries who have a different way of thinking than their peers.
How do you start down the revolutionary path? Here, three steps to try:
1. Be a leader How we view ourselves is the image we project. Dont wait until someone else takes charge. Be proactive. Take control and lead your company in its industry. Find ways to be on the forefront and not in the critics chair. Leaders and revolutionaries face those who are used to doing things the old way. Fords early investors were outraged that he worked according to his own plan and timetable.
2. Be innovative Look for ways to change things. Look for solutions where nobody else sees them. Ford was able to create a car chassis eight times faster then his rivals because he was willing to innovate his process of production.
3. Be a visionary Dont accept the status quo. Ford saw the car as a vehicle for the masses, not just the wealthy few. When his early investors didnt agree with his vision, he left his first company and started a second. He was not willing to compromise his vision.
Fred Koury is CEO of Small Business News Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Do you find yourself constantly on the defensive? If it's not one problem, it's another?
Sales are down. Cash flow is negative. Employees are leaving. You even have problems at home.
Do you want to just give up? Well, maybe you are facing a heavy dose of adversity.
If we look at our lives with the benefit of hindsight, maybe we can understand it better. Adversity starts from the moment of our birth. Prior to entering the world, we live in a uterine bubble -- floating around in the comfort of our mothers, waiting to be born.
We arrive in a world filled with struggles and problems. We cry and scream to get food and attention. One day we enter school, a room filled with 30 different little personalities, each fighting for love and attention.
Our adversity continues through high school and college. Then, in a flash, we are thrust into the real world. And then a new struggle starts that follows us through the next 30 or 40 years.
That, of course, is the working life. We take all that we have learned from our protected world into the unprotected world, and who is there to greet us? Our old friend, adversity. Only now the stakes are higher. Our very existence sometimes depends on how we cope with the adversity we face in adulthood.
How should we view our frequent companion? Should we view it as an enemy and try to avoid it, or as a friend we can learn from?
You may ask how you can view adversity as a friend. I see three ways it can serve in that role:
- In sifting. If we take two people and place them in a competitive situation, the inherent adversity usually shows who of the two will succeed and who will fail. Our economic system is based on this freedom to succeed or fail.
Many people who immigrate to the U.S. start businesses that, within a few years, become very successful because hard work and a commitment to succeed overcome the adversity of adapting to a foreign culture.
- In shining. Adversity also shines on those who make it beyond the sifting level. A boxer who fights against the bag but never faces a real opponent has not really been tested. Only when he is in the ring with another fighter do the rigors of training come to fruition and the fighter begins to realize his true potential.
- In strengthening. The presence of adversity forces us to test our abilities, sharpening them as we go. In fact, one of the biggest dangers we face in business is a lack of adversity. Without it, we become comfortable, and with comfort comes complacency.
When we started SBN years ago, we faced plenty of adversity. We had no track record in the publishing business, little capital and a lot of competition. In those early years, we stared down adversity nearly every day, generating cash flow, paying bills, meeting payroll, soothing dissatisfied customers and trying to collect from customers who didn't pay their bills.
Today we publish magazines in several cities. However, we still face adversity in finding and keeping good employees, controlling costs and increasing revenue.
If we had let adversity have the upper hand, we probably wouldn't have started this company. And we certainly wouldn't have expanded into other cities. But through the process of sifting, shining and strengthening, we have always emerged from our adversity ready to take on the next challenge. And we will continue to do so in the years to come.
The true test of a person's character is not when things are going well, but how that person handles adversity. Those are the people I want on my team. Fred Koury (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and CEO of SBN.
Who do you want to be? How will you get there? These questions plague the success-driven.
Ask yourself, where do I want to be in 10 to 20 years? Then ask, what do I have to do today to be there?
Julius Caesar was 42 and the Roman Governor of Spain when, happening upon a statue of Alexander the Great, it occurred to him that the younger man had conquered the then-known world when he was 33. Caesar responded by changing his life, and the rest is history.
Planning for your future requires one important element: organization. It involves taking the components of your life and assembling them into a systematic routine aimed toward a particular result. Absent organization, you can look forward to frustration, wasted time, poor performance and lack of perspective.
Organizing your life yields three priceless resources: time, efficiency and perspective. Everybody has the first. Each day contains 24 hours that can never be recaptured. If the average life of a person is 73.5 years, that's 26,827 days, or 643,860 available hours.
Time is finite. When we waste it, we can't go back and make up for it. By managing our time, we gain control of this resource and can accomplish more in a shorter period.
The dividend of time management is efficiency, the ability to do more with less. The wealth and ease that most people have in the United States is a direct result of increased efficiency. The evolution of the world from agricultural to industrial and now to an information age is tied to ever-increasing productivity.
We need to look for ways to continue to increase our productivity. Are we involved with overlapping activities with negligible rewards? Every wasted activity eliminated is time discovered to produce more results.
Perspective is the ability to form a clear view of your environment. How often have you felt overwhelmed, only to realize you were going in circles? The person without perspective cannot see his or her path. But when we step back for a moment and consider ourselves as outsiders might, we can correct our course.
The Portuguese navigators of the 14th century kept detailed logbooks and records of their voyages in uncharted waters. They were considered state secrets. In our life's voyage, it's only by keeping detailed records of successes and failures and the choices that brought us there that we're able to adjust our course for more profitable waters.
Where should you begin? First, take an honest look at yourself. Three major steps will follow:
No. 1, examine every aspect of your life -- work, leisure and spiritual -- and make an inventory. Assess the tools at your disposal. What is your expertise? Who might give you insight? What are your assets and liabilities? Where are you wasting time? Are you spending too much time relaxing? How much time do you spend at work? What are your work processes? Where is your work being duplicated?
No. 2, group the parts of your life into components. Ask what is important. Then incorporate these aspects into one central command post, or organizer.
The Roman army was one of the most successful in history because it was one of the best-trained and best-organized. It was divided into divisions, or legions, of 6,000 men, which were divided into cohorts, which had several centurions over various units.
Through superior organization, Caesar was able to conquer the larger but less well-organized armies of Gaul in a few years. Your organizer can likewise become a central command post from which you will be able to direct the needed resources to win the war. It should contain some lever of control over every aspect of your life.
No. 3, execute your plan of attack. Do you need to make more sales? Do you need more products? More locations? More quiet time? With a panoramic view of your personal battlefield, you can begin plotting your strategy for the rest of your life.
We are only given one life, and now is the time to make it count. We can't go back and capture lost time. We can only look forward and make the time we have left count. By organizing ourselves, we can all get there. Fred Koury (email@example.com) is president and CEO of SBN. This column originally appeared in the October 1998 issue of SBN.