Todd Shryock

Friday, 22 April 2005 11:14

High energy

Lou Joseph is a bundle of energy.

The former collegiate wrestler who is president and CEO of The Brewer-Garrett Co., a mechanical services and systems firm, has your attention at all times while making his points about the importance of people to the success of his organization. To him, he's the coach, the employees are his star athletes and the championship match with the competition is in full swing.

He gestures and raises his voice to near-shouting levels to drive his points home, and there is no mistaking that he believes in everything he says and does and in what it takes to succeed.

"You need people, programs and technology," says Joseph. "You find the best people, you provide them with the resources and tools they need - the program - so they have them in their arsenal, and you have to provide the best products to the clients because they deserve the best every time. With technology, you need to invest in tomorrow today."

Joseph is always in that near-frenzy athletes work themselves into before a big match, and he has little tolerance for those with no work ethic or ambition to accomplish great things.

"The faint of heart need not apply," he says.

He has surrounded himself with people who have similar traits and whom he trusts. His strategy is to provide an environment that quality people will be attracted to and thrive in, thus propelling the entire organization forward. He wants everyone thinking about growth.

Joseph started with the company in 1982 as a sales rep heading up the newly created service division. Brewer-Garrett at that time was a small, $4 million company. He steadily moved up through the ranks and was named president in 1991. By 1992, he was the sole owner of the company. This year, he expects it to do more than $50 million in revenue.

Some of his early experiences with the company formed the basis for what his vision is today.

His first office was in the basement of an old building on Scranton Road in the Flats. It was cold, there were bars on the window and he was located next to the furnace.

Joseph learned that creating a good environment was part of keeping people motivated about coming to work. In selling service contracts rather than construction contracts, he learned the value of long-term relationships and the importance of good people.

The early years
Even before becoming president, Joseph noticed problems with how the company was doing business. There was too much focus on short-term, one-time contracts and not enough focus on building relationships.

"I was writing $1,000 and $2,000 service contracts," says Joseph. "The others were talking about $50,000 and $100,000 construction jobs. They always said my sales didn't even pay the taxes on their contracts."

His vision was that selling low-cost service contracts that build relationships with people will ultimately lead to high-dollar construction contracts. That commitment to building relationships rather than getting the quick sale paid off, and today, it is a key part of everything Brewer-Garrett does.

"Everything is based on relationships," says Joseph. "I got to know people - really got to know them. I like to do that with my clients and prospective clients. I care about more than just the one hour we are doing business. I want to know about their lives, their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs.

"It helps allow me to identify their needs and solve their problems. It's what it's all about. To sell service contracts, you have to understand their business."

The other problem Joseph identified early on was that the company was one-dimensional, only doing small HVAC design jobs.

"In order for us to survive, I thought we needed to be multidimensional," he says. "You need to have a bunch of different skill sets. Why not do sheet metal and piping? Don't just design it, design it and install it. All these associated things were subcontracted out. Now we do them all in-house. We're now a single source solution."

Joseph was influencing the company's direction long before he took over as president. He wasn't shy about sharing ideas and solutions and was always suggesting changes to the partners who owned the business. He was steadily promoted, but not everybody was an ally. Joseph negotiated a position onto the board of directors and in his first meeting convinced the board to release the company's CFO -- who had an ownership stake - because he didn't share the same vision for the company.

The action resulted in a lawsuit that was settled in 1991. Shortly after that, Joseph became sole owner of the company after buying out the last partial owner.

Freed from the constraints of sharing control, Joseph was able to implement his vision for the company. Joseph knew Brewer-Garrett could be a lot more than it was; it just needed the right solutions.

"I saw a phenomenal opportunity," says Joseph. "Brewer-Garrett was a diamond that needed polished."

The vision
"I watched the evolution of a company with no direction," says Joseph. "It was run by great engineers and they were great people, but they didn't have a plan. I'm a fanatic. I plan to work and work the plan. I plan to it, commit to it and then execute it and do whatever it takes.

"They had never done a business plan. They had a couple of big, solid clients, and that scared the hell out of me. If you are depending on one or two clients, the minute that client goes away, what do you have?"

He emphasized relationship-building and focused on service contracts that brought repeat business and served as a lead-in to more sales. A construction contract was lucrative but wasn't long-term.

By selling service contracts, Brewer-Garrett was able to develop relationships with clients and become a consultant for a variety of building needs. When these clients needed a major construction project, they trusted Brewer-Garrett to do them because of the relationships established through the service contracts.

Joseph had already convinced the previous ownership to move to a new facility in Middleburg Heights a few years before becoming sole owner, and the new location reflected the emphasis on environment that he saw as key to attracting the people he needed to take the company to the next level.

"The environment wasn't there," says Joseph. "I didn't like the facility. There were bars on the windows, it was dark, the business was getting robbed every other month and people were getting their cars stolen. How can you attract top people with that environment? We had to make a commitment to a facility. I wanted to move out."

Joseph bought 4.5 acres of land in Middleburg Heights and had a 50,000-square-foot facility constructed to upgrade the image of the company and help recruit new talent to keep the company growing.

"I built the facility knowing we were the only company like ours that had anything like it," says Joseph. "It looks like a professional building. We can attract professional people, and I think we need to do that. If I bring someone in, I can show them I made a commitment to the people in these walls.

"I wanted a fitness center where they could work out and I wanted a full kitchen where they could eat. Because they spend so much time here, I wanted to make it better for them."

There are also lockers and a sauna in both bathrooms, and Joseph now has a core of people who come in early to work out together and then share breakfast in the kitchen. People from different departments mingle, solve problems and develop a mutual respect for each other.

It's all part of Joseph's commitment to what he calls his extended family at the company. Family is emphasized because taking care of employees is the first step to taking care of customers, he says.

"I want and encourage employees to bring their families here all the time," says Joseph. "It's not at all a diversion; it enhances the environment. When a son walks into the room, you can see a twinkle in the father's eye. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. It goes back to creating the right attitude."

The right attitude has to come from the top. Joseph says that as a leader, every day you have to put on your game face before you enter the building. You can't be up or down because that will leave people wondering where you stand on any given day. Consistency is key to building relationships with employees and customers.

"You can't fake attitude," says Joseph. "You have to be positive. You have to have attitude and a value system that is beyond reproach. I always have to be up. When I walk in in the morning, I put on the happy face and do the deal."

Brewer-Garrett has a large room on the second floor of its facility that it uses for training sessions with which Joseph tries to instill the right attitude into employees. He admits to occasionally standing on a table when trying to make an important point during a training session.

And employees are sent to conferences and seminars to keep current on the latest technology so they can better understand customers' needs and how to provide solutions.

"Nothing is more important than education," says Joseph. "You have to educate to be the best. You have to have the proper systems to have continual growth. You have to sell efficiencies and guarantee it."

Give the employees a good environment and the tools they need to do the job, and a large part of the business will take care of itself.

"Over a period of time, we have developed something special," says Jeff Zellers, vice president of Brewer-Garrett. "We have an organization with an entrepreneurial spirit. The key to this thing is that everyone feels they are part of the decisions and take ownership."

With everyone involved, the company can achieve more because it isn't up to just one person at the top.

"For us to be effective, Lou shouldn't be making all the decisions," says Zellers. "Lou is most effective when the decisions are made by the people closest to the project."

This environment wasn't instantly created. Joseph had been able to effect change in the areas of the company he touched, but when he took full control, there was work to be done to transform the culture into one focused on service and growth.

"There were some people that didn't share the vision," says Joseph. "I invested time in everybody. It didn't happen overnight. I knew what they could and couldn't do. I needed to spend som e time with everyone. If they don't buy in, then they buy out. I give them a chance and put an objective in front of them and make sure they understand it. They have to accept that is the way we do business. Otherwise they become like a disease in the organization.

"The people that don't fit in stick out like a sore thumb. In many cases, we didn't have to fire them, they just leave. But you owe it to them, the ones that don't fit, to tell them that they will be successful, it's just not going to happen here. Then you help them with the job search, their resume or whatever they need. At every level in the organization you have to be focused on getting to the next level. We have to focus on what we are doing."

Everyone in the company knows exactly what is expected of them, and they pay attention because their salary is tied directly to job performance.

"Every employee is on an incentive program," says Joseph. "We have operational awards and financial incentives that focus on growth."

Each employee has a job description with specific requirements that they help write. There are basic responsibilities plus additional growth-oriented criteria that determine bonuses. Employees are formally reviewed twice a year to discuss how they are doing but often get informal feedback on a regular basis. The more goals that are met, the more the employee earns.

"Job descriptions can become a gray area," says Joseph. "I want to make them very clear. The associates need to understand their part in the process. It helps them understand their role within the organization. At the managers level, it's important, but it's more important at their level."

Leading by example
Lou Joseph built Brewer-Garrett by building relationships. Relationships with employees give insight into what motivates them and what tools they need to do their jobs better. Relationships with customers lead to a better understanding of their business and how the company can better solve them.

Clients were complaining to Joseph about rising energy costs and asking what could be done, so he created the Energy Services Group to help clients figure out how to be more energy-efficient. The result has been five consecutive years of winning the Governor's Award for Energy Efficiency for work the company has done for clients.

Joseph can't do everything on his own, so he has committed to getting the right people to support his vision.

"The most important ingredient to success is people," he says. "People tend to forget that. I have to stay out in front of them. I will always be out walking around to be visible.

"Being a leader is having a vision. When the herd goes left, it's harder to have the guts to go right."

Joseph has been going against the herd all along. When those at other HVAC engineering firms were casually dressed, he was wearing a tie and encouraging everyone around him to do the same to present a more professional image. When competitors were doing business out of run-down, turn-of-the-century buildings, he was building a new facility to attract better employees and present a better space for customers to visit. Other companies balk at providing anything more than what employees need to do the job; Joseph provides a workout room and sauna. Others focused on big dollar construction contracts, while he built relationships with smaller service contracts.

The results have proven Joseph right. Revenue has grown about 300 percent since he took over the company. The company has opened offices in other cities as it does more regional and national work.

Continued growth is a challenge, but one Joseph readily accepts. With the emphasis he places on people who can continue to develop long-term relationships for the company, recruiting is key.

"It's hard to find the right people," Joseph says of the outer offices. "Every day, that's why I'm recruiting nationwide. I've got 10 to 12 recruiters looking for people. It's very difficult. You have to have attitude, integrity and leadership, and that's a pretty tall order.

"We have to work harder with the other offices and make sure the systems are in place to support them. They have to get the same answers from everyone. We send managers down there often and communicate often. It is more difficult and it has impeded growth, but we planned for that.

"If you have a good system, it helps. We have a standard business system, a standard management system and standard training everyone has to go through. There's standard technical training for the field people. It goes a long way toward making a consistent organization. It helps develop the attitude and culture you need."

Creating a culture that fosters growth is critical.

"If you are not growing, you are dying," says Joseph. "We are growing. Two years ago at our Christmas party, I looked at the audience and said, 'I understand there is a recession going on. I choose not to participate. Who's with me?' All the hands went up. We don't win all the time, but we win a lot more than we lose. When we lose, we learn from it.

"We get together and dissect it. We are critical of ourselves. We look in the mirror often and, consequently, we have been extremely successful."

Empowering the employees with a clearly defined responsibility and decision-making power doesn't mean Joseph isn't involved, it just means there is a great deal of trust and respect within the organization. Managers consult with each other as well as with Joseph to make sure the best course of action is chosen.

"They are smart enough to get my two cents on it," says Joseph. "They are working on a large project right now, and you can bet I'll be involved. It's a conduit to me being in the loop of communication. When someone makes decisions, that's a powerful thing, and they are careful with it.

"I can count the times I've had to give edicts at Brewer-Garrett on one hand. What does that tell me? I've got the right people."

And it all hinges on building relationships.

"Don't make it about you," says Joseph. "Put your people in the light. You need to be out front, but credit needs to go to them. Part of having a vision is you need to be a good listener and know what they want and what they are doing. Learn what makes them tick. Understand what motivates them. Ask questions and listen to them and formulate what you need to do or go get to get the desired results.

"Leaders today have to have personal integrity - that's top of the list. You have to be positive. Stay focused. But most of all, have fun."

How to reach: The Brewer-Garrett Co., (440) 243-3535 or www.brewer-garrett.com

Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:22

Team approach

If you're not familiar with Six Sigma, it can sound like some sort of secret society with its own code.

You hear about black belts, green belts, reductions in variations and references to mysterious statistics. But despite some of the odd terms, it's really not all that complicated. When upper management fully endorses the concept and it is implemented correctly, it can greatly increase the profitability of a company.

"It's a management process for running a company," says Dale Flowers, co-director of the Institute for Management and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. "Some of the key aspects to it are that it intends to create a fact-based decision-making culture from every employee from the top on down. The other thing that is important is the concept of reducing variation in the process to the absolute minimum."

If you do a task 1 million times, there should only be 3.4 mistakes out of the 1 million if you want to call yourself a Six Sigma company.

"For all practical purposes, if you are a Six Sigma company, you are delivering very good consistency," Flowers says. "But consistency alone is not enough. You could consistently be delivering a bad hamburger. You also have to meet or exceed customer requirements."

Six Sigma originated at Motorola and was soon picked up by others. Flowers, who has been following quality disciplines since the '70s, says Six Sigma is really a combination of an old concept called statistical quality control and Total Quality Management.

Six Sigma principles focus on delivering better efficiency and effectiveness by measuring anything that could affect the overall production process. Armed with this data, teams of employees can pinpoint where problems are and which problems are costing the most money, and can concentrate efforts on fixing the biggest money losers.

"Project teams will take a process and look at it with the goal of making it more effective in terms of better meeting customer needs, as well as making it as efficient as it is humanly possible to make it," says Flowers. "Efficiency and freedom from defects are viewed as equivalents. If you are making Big Macs and you mess up and have to make a new one, that creates a lot of waste, which costs you more than doing it right the first time."

Flowers says that historically, product inspectors would hand out pink slips to products that failed quality inspection, but there was no leap to figure out why products were failing inspection. Six Sigma and other quality initiatives look to address that gap.

"It's about measuring all important dimensions and reducing variations in the process," says Flowers. "If you form a part correctly, it will fit perfectly and function perfectly. The way to do that is to be obsessed with variance reduction."

If you are having trouble meeting customer specifications, then try a demonstration project using Six Sigma principles.

"Six Sigma can help you learn how to get everything possible out of the equipment," says Flowers.

A lot of problems may be solved by a simple analysis using Pareto's rule of 80-20 - 80 percent of the problem can be solved by identifying the correct 20 percent of the issues. By focusing on and correcting the 20 percent, you may be able to eliminate 80 percent of your defects.

Other projects may require complex designed experiments that can rule out every possible cause until only one remains.

For Six Sigma to work, managers and employees have to be educated on how it works because it requires a cultural change.

"With global competition and even local competition in everything we do, you cannot afford to have assets as valuable as brains and not use them," says Flowers. "The quality initiatives are getting profound results. But there is a management revolution that has to go on. People that grew up in the hierarchical era have to make the transition to being more of a coach and a mentor. A corporate culture has been found to be a source of long-term sustainable competitive advantage."

How to reach: Case Western Reserve University, http://weatherhead.case.edu

Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:48

Point of interest

Interest rates appear to be on a slow ascent, but as with most things in the financial world, you can never be too sure.

A sudden change in the economy, foreign turmoil or a host of other unforeseen circumstances could keep interest rates where they are or even send them back down. Regardless of which direction they go, have you looked at how any changes will affect your business? Is your credit all fixed-rate products? Is it all floating-rate? Some combination? What will happen to your cash flow if rates increase or decrease a percentage point over time?

"Because the future direction of interest rates is uncertain, it is risky to use solely floating-rate or solely fixed-rate loans," says Julie Sabroff, National City's senior vice president of small business banking in Cleveland.

Keeping some of your credit on fixed rates and some on floating rates can help spread your risk no matter which way rates go. A lot also depends on the type of credit facility. For example, a 20-year commercial real estate loan should probably be at a fixed rate, considering how low rates are right now. A line of credit with fluctuating balances will probably require a floating rate.

The bigger the company, the more options it has available for structuring a loan. A mid-sized company may be able to get a rate swap or rate cap in the loan. A rate swap is typically a floating-rate product that can be converted to fixed-rate under certain circumstances. A rate cap is a floating-rate product with which, if interest rates rise beyond a certain threshold, the lender is responsible for future increases.

"It's for people who want to shield themselves from future increases," says Sabroff. "It's effectively buying insurance, if you will."

Talk to your banker about specific concerns because each case is different.

"Everything will be case-specific," says Sabroff. "It depends on how you plan to use the proceeds, the type of business and where the business is in its own industry cycle. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Interest rate risk is out there and should be understood and managed in all organizations, whether they are small- or medium-sized businesses.

"They should be going through forecasting exercises and understanding their sensitivity to rises in interest rates. What impact would it have on their business income?"

These types of scenarios are exactly what the bank will be looking at when determining your loan applications. You should know in advance exactly what kind of risks a change in interest rates will pose to your operations.

In today's competitive banking environment, you should expect your banker to get to know your business, industry and specific needs. Your banker should be able to explain all of your financing options, which ones would best meet your needs and what risks each poses. More complicated solutions might require product specialists, but you should be comfortable with whatever package you ultimately choose.

"It's about really digging in and understanding what makes their business tick," says Sabroff. "It's about understanding what risks the business faces from both a balance-sheet standpoint and the interest rate risk. It's really about knowing your customer."

But the bank can only do so much. It's ultimately up to the business owner to make sure he or she has fully considered all the possible scenarios regarding changing interest rates.

"They should have an understanding as to how interest rate risk can impact them and really be thinking about that," says Sabroff. "That sensitivity is very important."

How to reach: National City Bank, www.nationalcity.com

Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:26

Team approach

If you're not familiar with Six Sigma, it can sound like some sort of secret society with its own code.

You hear about black belts, green belts, reductions in variations and references to mysterious statistics. But despite some of the odd terms, it's really not all that complicated. When upper management fully endorses the concept and it is implemented correctly, it can greatly increase the profitability of a company.

"It's a management process for running a company," says Dale Flowers, co-director of the Institute for Management and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. "Some of the key aspects to it are that it intends to create a fact-based decision-making culture from every employee from the top on down. The other thing that is important is the concept of reducing variation in the process to the absolute minimum."

If you do a task 1 million times, there should only be 3.4 mistakes out of the 1 million if you want to call yourself a Six Sigma company.

"For all practical purposes, if you are a Six Sigma company, you are delivering very good consistency," Flowers says. "But consistency alone is not enough. You could consistently be delivering a bad hamburger. You also have to meet or exceed customer requirements."

Six Sigma originated at Motorola and was soon picked up by others. Flowers, who has been following quality disciplines since the '70s, says Six Sigma is really a combination of an old concept called statistical quality control and Total Quality Management.

Six Sigma principles focus on delivering better efficiency and effectiveness by measuring anything that could affect the overall production process. Armed with this data, teams of employees can pinpoint where problems are and which problems are costing the most money, and can concentrate efforts on fixing the biggest money losers.

"Project teams will take a process and look at it with the goal of making it more effective in terms of better meeting customer needs, as well as making it as efficient as it is humanly possible to make it," says Flowers. "Efficiency and freedom from defects are viewed as equivalents. If you are making Big Macs and you mess up and have to make a new one, that creates a lot of waste, which costs you more than doing it right the first time."

Flowers says that historically, product inspectors would hand out pink slips to products that failed quality inspection, but there was no leap to figure out why products were failing inspection. Six Sigma and other quality initiatives look to address that gap.

"It's about measuring all important dimensions and reducing variations in the process," says Flowers. "If you form a part correctly, it will fit perfectly and function perfectly. The way to do that is to be obsessed with variance reduction."

If you are having trouble meeting customer specifications, then try a demonstration project using Six Sigma principles.

"Six Sigma can help you learn how to get everything possible out of the equipment," says Flowers.

A lot of problems may be solved by a simple analysis using Pareto's rule of 80-20 - 80 percent of the problem can be solved by identifying the correct 20 percent of the issues. By focusing on and correcting the 20 percent, you may be able to eliminate 80 percent of your defects.

Other projects may require complex designed experiments that can rule out every possible cause until only one remains.

For Six Sigma to work, managers and employees have to be educated on how it works because it requires a cultural change.

"With global competition and even local competition in everything we do, you cannot afford to have assets as valuable as brains and not use them," says Flowers. "The quality initiatives are getting profound results. But there is a management revolution that has to go on. People that grew up in the hierarchical era have to make the transition to being more of a coach and a mentor. A corporate culture has been found to be a source of long-term sustainable competitive advantage."

How to reach: Case Western Reserve University, http://weatherhead.case.edu

Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:34

Innovating standards

The Bluetooth technology standard was created by a consortium of electronics companies so that consumer products such as laptops, PDAs and phones could all wirelessly communicate with each other regardless of brand.

Garfield Heights-based Audiopack Technologies has taken that standard and applied it in ways the original creators probably never envisioned. Audiopack, which designs and manufactures wireless communication products for firefighters, military personnel, security forces and others who work in hostile or harsh environments, is using the Bluetooth standard to give its products an edge over the competition, while making the people who use them safer.

"We are piggybacking on the Bluetooth chipsets that are being sold," says Jon Adams, president of Audiopack. "We are modifying and tailoring the chipset and software stack to meet the markets we service. We are using it as a building block in our products."

Because of the standardization of the chipsets, the price is relatively low. Audiopack is able to take these inexpensive chips and modify them so that they meet the demanding requirements for their markets. For example, the devices have to be certified that they won't spark and cause an explosion in the hazardous environments in which they will be used.

"We are definitely thinking about the consumer," says Adams. "We're leveraging the relatively low cost of Bluetooth radios. They are low cost because of the high quantities being made. They are then ruggedized for use in our markets."

As communication technology continues to evolve, new solutions have to be created to solve safety and reliability issues. For example, technology can allow a firefighter commander to get voice, data and images relayed from the firefighters in a burning building back to a command station.

"Until now, they had to use cables to connect the microphone on their masks to the radio on their waist," says Adams. "The cables created a safety and reliability issue."

This is where Audiopack applied innovation to the Bluetooth standard to come up with a unique product.

"One of the design parameters of Bluetooth was it would not require an FCC license and would be a relatively short-range technology," says Adams. "The idea was just to have the devices communicate in the same room, not over any distance. Most Bluetooth devices have a range of 10 meters or about 30 feet. That distance limitation is inappropriate for firefighters who might be at one end of the building or another, with the commander outside."

What Audiopack created to solve that problem is a wireless headset that uses Bluetooth to transmit information to the more powerful FCC-licensed radio on the firefighter's waist, which then relays the data to the commander.

"It's similar to a headset for a cell phone," says Adams. "We are making a very specialized headset that happens to interface with the firefighter's gas mask, head and hearing protection."

While the original creators of Bluetooth were envisioning people doing things like grabbing files from their home PC with their PDA without having to connect any wires, the technology standard has allowed Audiopack to bring expanding capabilities to its markets.

"The data rate is fairly high at 1 megabyte per second data rate," says Adams. "That means you can simultaneously transmit voice, data and video over the same link, which is another big advantage for certain markets. Fire services can use our technology to transmit images with voice and data about what the temperature is inside and how much air they have in their tank.

"There are a lot of other innovations on the drawing board, and I see lots of potential, both in Bluetooth and with other standards."

How to reach: Audiopack Technologies, www.audiopack.com or (216) 332-7040

Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:19

Mission critical

In January 2002, Shiloh Industries faced a crisis.

The engineered metal products manufacturer had tapped nearly all of its $290 million line of credit to fund growth and acquisitions in the 1990s and was in default.

Profitability was suffering, and the company, with annual revenue of $600 million, was burning cash at an alarming rate. The banks refused to extend further credit, and the independent auditors couldn't give the company the unqualified opinion it needed without an additional banking agreement. SEC filings were due, and the closing of the 2001 fiscal year had been delayed to buy Shiloh a bit more time.

But there was no time left.

"We didn't have years, we had days," says Ted Zampetis, Shiloh's president and CEO. "The transformation had to start immediately."

Zampetis, a semi-retired executive who worked for The Standard Products Co. for 27 years, including as its president and COO, was a member of Shiloh's board in 2002. He knew full well how bad things were. When things started looking critical, the board asked him to spend a month visiting the various Shiloh facilities to assess the situation, interview the people and report back to the board.

There were four questions that needed to be answered to provide a full diagnosis: Are the margins healthy? What is happening from an operational point of view? What is happening with leadership? How strong is the strategy of the company?

"Diagnosis is the most important tool because you have to understand what is happening," says Zampetis, who immigrated to the United States from Greece at the age of 25. "The business strategy was not what we were led to believe at the board of directors level. Once that was diagnosed, I was able to come to the board quickly. Unfortunately, in all four areas we were suffering at Shiloh, suffering big time.

"I expressed the view that we were either going to turn it around fast or we were going to lose the company. There was no other way out."

Zampetis says the board didn't take independent action sooner because no one wanted to undermine the company's leadership. But after Zampetis reported back, they knew change had to be made and that there was only one person who had the knowledge of Shiloh and the knowledge of the industry to pull off a quick turnaround.

"I didn't realize what I was doing and painted myself into a corner," says Zampetis. "Because as soon as I told them that (the diagnosis), they came to me and said they had no time to look for a new CEO and we have no time to experiment. I had no intentions or plans to do that (become CEO), but I had a moral responsibility to do what needed to be done."

With the company already burdened with a cash shortage, Zampetis offered to work the first three years for stock instead of a salary. The board readily agreed.

So on Jan. 28, 2002, Zampetis took over Shiloh Industries, and the turnaround process began.

"Once I got in, I knew a couple of things," says Zampetis. "After the diagnosis, you have to follow with action that would work. It has to be credible action, quick action and action that had an impact quickly on the financial and operational aspects and morale of the people, both internally and externally. When you are suffering internally, you are suffering externally, even if the customers won't tell you that.

"The transformation of Shiloh had to go very fast and in a credible way."


Setting the tone

One of the first things Zampetis did after taking over was to rehire a receptionist. While it might sound like a pointless move with the company teetering on the edge of ruin, it set a tone with the employees - the receptionist was brought back at the same time 11 vice presidents were let go.

"It was unbelievable to see the structure of this company during that time," says Zampetis. "We basically had fired the receptionist to save money. So if you wanted to call Shiloh, you were going around in circles until finally you'd get frustrated and say the heck with it. Firing the receptionist saved some money, but at the same time, they had 11 vice presidents they were paying a high amount of money to."

Bringing back the receptionist sent the message that the company had a new focus on customer service. The 11 empty offices sent the message that Zampetis meant business.

Now that he had everyone's attention, the sales process to get employees and customers to believe in him began.

"I had to stand up in front of everyone internally and externally and explain to them what was happening," says Zampetis. "I had to explain why the company was in the shape it was in and, more importantly, how we were going to get the company out of that booby trap. I had to explain my role and the role of everyone else. That's the start of a culture.

"If you sit in front of people and talk to them, and you know what you are saying, you can see it in their eyes that they believe what you are telling them. They see the difference between this and that. They see and say, 'Oh my goodness, this fellow knows what he is talking about.' So the cultural transformation started immediately."

Zampetis met with employees in small groups, sometimes holding as many as 10 meetings a day.

"For union, nonunion, hourly or salary, there is one story," he says, wagging one finger in the air for emphasis, "not two different stories. The first thing is, there is one message that is common and consistent. You reinforce and support it, and you say it to everybody. You tell them the truth. My objective was to create clarity in the mind of everybody.

"Once you create clarity, you create unity. Then, if you create unity, the action plans you put in place will be executed with intensity."

Employees were taught about process ownership and how they fit into the overall company and why their skills were important to the company.

Zampetis had been through this before. In his time with Standard Products, he spent most of his career troubleshooting and turning around operations across the globe. There was a lot of work to be done to save Shiloh, but he knew where to find the answers.

Margins were suffering because of bad deals, customer givebacks, inflation and overhead. Spending practices weren't monitored properly, and there was too much waste at just about every level of the company. There were too many areas that Zampetis would question employees about and the answer was simply, "I don't know."

He created a detailed plan that addressed specific issues and assigned a person to take ownership of that issue. These action plans were put into place immediately, and the person in charge was given a 12-week window to accomplish the goal -- a time horizon that is still applied to everything the company does.

"If you give them 12 months, they will take 12 months," says Zampetis. "If you give them 12 weeks, they will move quickly and prioritize the impact. When you look quickly, you can separate and prioritize and determine the impact of an action.

"If the impact is maximum, then I'm going to do it. If it's minimum, I'm not going to do it."


Profit power

When Zampetis took over, he was the equivalent of a doctor working on a patient for which he had no X-rays, MRIs or vital signs. His experience gave him a good idea of what was wrong, but nursing Shiloh back to health required better data. With that data, he could start making changes that would make the company profitable again.

"You have to maximize the cash you generate from operations," says Zampetis. "You cannot just cut costs and survive, profit and grow. Cutting costs saves some cash and helps for a few weeks or months, but if we are going to grow as a company and gain some self respect, then we better start focusing on profitability."

One way to increase profits is to decrease waste. Zampetis defined waste costs into five categories so everyone in the company was talking about the same things. Then he institutionalized the idea of focusing on waste all the time by instituting a daily conference call with all the plant managers.

Each day, they are asked what they have done in the last 24 hours to improve on scrap, rework, chargebacks, environmental health and safety and quality.

"This takes place in front of everybody," says Zampetis. "If there is a problem, I ask the others if there are any recommendations. They suddenly understood that I was holding them accountable, but also creating some teamwork to create a cohesiveness. The good plant managers love to jump in and help their fellow managers."

Productivity also had to increase. Zampetis instituted a formula to measure it at each of the company's plants, which can vary greatly in what manufacturing methods they use.

"The way we evaluate the productivity of the human factor is simple: We take the value added and remove the material costs, and by removing the material costs, everyone is operating on the same foundation," he says. "Laser welding is different than stamping, but if you take the material costs away, there is no difference.

"We cannot create value if our productivity and waste costs are not what they should be."

In three years, productivity has improved by 50 percent. As a result of the productivity gains, Shiloh decreased its work force by 37 percent in that time period.

Manufacturing as a percent of revenue was also too high, according to Zampetis.

"Like every other company, manufacturing as a percent of revenue was 35 percent," he says. "I told everybody we need to get below 30 percent. They looked at me like, 'What is he smoking?' I've never smoked anything in my life."

In 2004, manufacturing as a percent of revenue was down to 28.5 percent, and Zampetis says they have good momentum going to take it even lower.

All the gains in productivity have not come at the expense of quality; it's been the opposite. As productivity has increased, so has quality.

"You cannot improve productivity until you improve quality," says Zampetis.

Shiloh's facilities were due for recertification for QS9000 and Zampetis shocked everyone when he said they weren't going to spend the money on the recertification process.

Instead, he thought a better investment was in the new quality standard known as TS-16949.

"It's the new worldwide quality standard that's the latest and greatest," says Zampetis. "It's much upgraded over the old standards."

In July 2003, the first plant was certified in the new standard. The other 10 plants and two technical centers, plus the corporate office, quickly followed. The investment in the new standards and the emphasis on quality paid quick dividends. Defects dropped into the single digits per million parts shipped, and for some major customers, it dropped to zero.

"Customers are telling me that they view Shiloh as the benchmark for irreversible improvement," says Zampetis.

Administrative costs as a percent of revenue were 9.6 percent in 2001.

"At the time, I told everyone it needed to be below 6 percent," says Zampetis.

In 2004, it had dropped to 5.8 percent.

"We created a flat structure and took out most of the vice presidents," says Zampetis. "There are nine people reporting to me, and that's the company. We created an environment that operationally, culturally and strategically, we are able to really be much more responsive and save money and the customer doesn't have to go through a lot of levels."

Six Sigma principles were adopted to optimize the performance of the company.

"The first thing you have to do is understand what value the company possesses and how are we going to unlock that hidden value," says Zampetis. "That's how we will create a capability that is different than anyone else in the eyes of the customer. Can we provide a competitive advantage they can't refuse?

"I talked to the employees about certain aspects about what we have to do to optimize purchasing, customer relationships and strategy. Each and every customer is different. Each has different issues and needs. Some problems are common, but some are uniquely different. The common ones are easy to understand. The unique ones - if you know them - then you can manage them effectively. So we developed a strategy for every customer, then optimized our performance. There is no substitute to unlocking value like optimizing performance."

That's where Six Sigma comes in. The processes with the most impact on the company were identified at each plant. A 12-week road map for improvement was created for each of these processes by using teams of employees and corporate coaches.

Part of the process was just getting everyone to think in the right mindset.

"Part of Six Sigma quality is understanding what 100 percent delivery is," says Zampetis. "We had people targeting delivery ratings of 98 percent. I told them, 'Why do you do that? Delivery has to be 100 percent, it can't be 98 percent. Delivery is either there or it's not. Either you made the truck or you didn't. What's the problem?'

"So I got them all to think 100 percent."


Strategy session
Zampetis also faced the challenge of getting 11 plants and two technical centers to think like one company rather than individual components.

"I brought in our top 10 people and spent one week to develop our business strategy," says Zampetis. "There was a lot of confusion. Shiloh is in the blanking, laser welding and stamping business. What's our strategy? People who worked for years in blanking were pushing our focus to be blanking because we were good at it.

"People from the stamping part of the business were pushing stamping and so on."

But Zampetis was undaunted.

"By the third day, I got them to see if we fragment strategically the core capabilities of Shiloh, we will be nothing but a commodity supplier until the cows come home, and one day the Chinese will obliterate us," he says. "I got them to see the light. The strategic value of Shiloh and way we position ourselves is Shiloh has world-class expertise and capabilities in all these areas. You have to bring the capabilities together and integrate them to produce a product that is stronger --using laser welding -- and lighter -- using steel more efficiently and cheaper. The business strategy is not to look at Medina Blanking and Ohio (Welded Blanks), but to look at Shiloh as an integrator of technology for the purpose of creating product leadership so the competition can't touch us.

"There are hundreds of stampers. There are a handful of laser welders. Only Shiloh has all these capabilities and can bring them together. When I explained that to everyone in one afternoon, it was like a baptism for everybody. It was an eye-opener."

Once the core capabilities of the company are integrated, there isn't much competition to worry about. The company created operating strategies to allow this integration to happen.

"It has to be continuously supported by communication internally, so everyone knows why we are doing it and what their role is," says Zampetis. "We have to explain the strategy so it is not misunderstood. We have to be clear. And once we do that continuously inside and out, it optimizes our synergy, executes our business strategy and provides us with an outcome that gives us a sustainable business model.

"Shiloh can become a higher-quality, lower-cost, full-service supplier to our customers. That was the outcome of what we did, and you see that in every approach. There is no flavor of the month."


The road ahead
Today, Zampetis has the data in place to monitor his patient. A wall in his office is covered with charts, graphs and numbers that illustrate the recovery process. The numbers show things are moving in the right direction. Revenue and profits are up, and 2005 looks promising.

"Am I finished? No," says Zampetis about the transformation of Shiloh. "The big, big bleeding for Shiloh is repaired. We either plugged it or the cause is gone. The company was shrinking and people were worried, but sometimes you have to shrink before you can grow because otherwise, you have cancer and you are going to die. Like a tree, sometimes you have to prune it before you see it grow."

To improve the company, Zampetis needed to understand it. To understand it, he needed to measure it. And when the measurements came in, the cause of the illness became apparent.

"We found out that Shiloh had some customers and some markets that were destroying the company," he says. "We were losing more money in one-fifth of the business than we were making in the other four-fifths. We identified it so we can fix it or dump it."

Part of fixing it meant going to one large customer and explaining that Shiloh could no longer do business under the terms the previous management team had agreed to, putting all future business with the customer at risk. It meant using Zampetis' personal reputation to get the banking agreement the company desperately needed. It meant passing on material costs to smaller customers.

Thus far, everything has worked out for Zampetis and Shiloh. The debt has been paid down (Zampetis cut it almost in half in his first 24 months) and the big customer agreed to new terms. And, employees have bought into the new culture.

"I knew I turned the corner when, within a month of me taking over, the announcement was made that the 11 vice presidents weren't there anymore and the receptionist was back," says Zampetis. "You have to put your money where your mouth is. We need a receptionist. When somebody calls, they hope to talk to a human that cares about the company. The employees got the message right there.

"The result of this enormous effort is an operational excellence that is creating cash flow that finances productivity and that creates customer loyalty," he says. "When a customer looks at Shiloh, we are not one of 500 companies, we are the benchmark."

How to reach: Shiloh Industries, www.shiloh.com

Monday, 24 January 2005 11:01

Testing environment

Keithley Instruments designs and manufactures complex electronic instruments and systems used for testing and monitoring by the electronics industry.

Its customers are engineers and technicians involved in research and new product development, which puts Keithley at a disadvantage when times are bad. If Keithley's customers slow their product development because of slow sales, there is less need for Keithley products.

So no matter how good Keithley makes its products, the company is still dependent on demand from electronics companies. And, like many other organizations, Keithley has felt the effects of a slow economy. However, President and CEO Joe Keithley and his leadership team have not been sitting idly by hoping for an improvement in market conditions.

Instead, Keithley turned the company's focus internally and started several initiatives that he hopes will ultimately make the business even stronger when economic conditions finally improve. Slow sales quarters were the perfect time to look for fat to trim and to implement major technology initiatives that, because of their disruptive nature, could not have taken place during busier times. So starting in 2003, Keithley focused on improving his business processes.

"We have implemented programs to strengthen ourselves during the electronics industry downturn, initiatives that would be hard to pursue in an expansion cycle," says Keithley. "Our strong balance sheet afforded us the financial strength, as well as the confidence, to pursue these initiatives. We believe our strategy makes sense and is sound. We are clear on who our customer base should be and which applications we want to serve."

In mid-2003, the company implemented the first phase of its Enterprise Resource Planning rollout. This first stage covered financial systems, inventory management, and manufacturing scheduling and planning in the United States, and was followed by additional manufacturing planning and business intelligence modules worldwide. Keithley also rolled out a global Customer Relationship Management system.

"ERP and CRM give us the tools to coordinate production quality, sales and account service on a global basis, which is very important because purchase decision-makers and the ultimate users of our instruments don't always work in the same location," says Keithley. "This will be even more important going forward, as production centers in Asia will have a greater role in purchase decisions than they do today.

"Together, our ERP and CRM systems provide us with an infrastructure to support a larger company and the financial management tools that will enable us to improve our efficiency as a global company."

The company also instituted lean manufacturing processes.

"We've made major changes to the way we purchase and manufacture as we adopted lean manufacturing principles," says Keithley.

But lean manufacturing didn't bring overnight results. Overall manufacturing costs actually increased initially during the early phases, but as processes were fine-tuned, manufacturing costs started to drop.

The company focused on creating an environment that encourages engineers to innovate while focusing on specific customer needs. Teams were created with a combination of marketing and engineering experience.

"Our business development teams, led by marketers with deep backgrounds in both measurement and engineering, act as a natural bridge for new ideas between our customers and our product development engineers," says Keithley. "We've also set up a fast company response team. We'll take advantage of the Keithley culture of listening to customers and responding to their needs when there is a solid business case for doing so. Our competitors often can't match this type of responsiveness and flexibility."

Customer requirements have gone beyond the old "faster and better" scenario. Today's customers will invest in new measurement tools only if those tools will do something special, something that makes their jobs easier or more productive and eventually results in greater profitability.

"By understanding our own core competencies and the real needs of our customers, we can win with exact customer solutions," says Keithley. "We can also see opportunities where others don't or where they choose not to compete."

The company has long understood the importance of relationships, not only with customers but with other regional entities as well.

"Our relationships with our customers, along with our partnerships with leading universities and researchers, provide insights into future innovations," says Keithley. "This interaction gives us early indications of the technologies we need to address, and the new measurement challenges our customers will be facing."

How to reach: Keithley Instruments, www.keithley.com

Wednesday, 22 December 2004 06:30

Spam dam

As at many companies, Key Bank's employees were being overwhelmed with spam. With millions of unwanted messages being received each month, productivity was suffering as a result.

"The problem was getting worse and worse for years," says Brett Young, vice president of workplace automation technology for Key. "We started hearing more and more from the end users, particularly the executives, who were frustrated with the amount of spam they were receiving."

The bank first implemented a word-based content filter to try to cut down on the amount of spam being received.

"We calculated that we were filtering about 37 percent of the spam coming in," says Young. "The word-based content filtering was primarily stopping the offensive spam with offensive language, but the sales stuff was coming straight through."

With spam still flooding in and a limited budget, something else had to be done.

"We started taking a look at the market at the end of (2003)," says Young. "We had no money, so we focused on those vendors that could give us proof-of-concept to try out their product for free."

After some market research, Key settled on a trial from IronPort Systems. IronPort combines Symantec Brightmail's filtering system with its own reputation-based system.

"We did some testing with it and had remarkable results," says Young. "We went from 37 percent to better than 97 percent blocking of inbound spam."

With thousands of employees, Key's e-mail flow is huge, so every spam message blocked saved someone in the company time. In January 2004, 3 million messages were delivered and 500,000 were blocked. In February, 1.6 million were delivered and 1.8 million were blocked. In October, 2.4 million were delivered and 2.8 million were blocked.

"The system sits on the perimeter of our e-mail infrastructure," says Young. "All e-mail goes through the devices. When they go through, they are filtered against the Brightmail spam filter which is built into the device, which also uses a sophisticated virus scanner. The virus scanning and spam filtering is all done on the perimeter. It's nice to block a lot of bad messages before they ever get into our environment. Everybody benefits from this.

"One of the coolest things about this is the whole project took about two weeks. That was from when we received the devices to when we were up and fully functioning."

Some employees were receiving 300 spam messages a day. That has now dwindled to just a handful. Based on audits, an average of 2.5 to three messages per employee per month get through the filters.

A big issue with spam filtering is something known as "false positives," or e-mail that gets blocked as spam that really isn't.

"False positives were a real concern of ours," says Young. "That's one of the reasons we went with IronPort and Brightmail. Brightmail has a low percentage of false positives. We don't take a really aggressive approach; we have a moderate approach when it comes to applying the rules. We probably let in more than some companies might who are using the same solution. We had to balance between what we could afford to lose with the tolerance for receiving spam. We haven't had any reports of messages being blocked that should have gone through.

"In most cases you wouldn't know about what you don't get, but I have to believe that if there were specific e-mails that were being blocked that weren't supposed to be, it would get reported.

"The whole solution was quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. If there are companies out there that are still experiencing pain from spam, there are tools that exist that make the pain go away fairly easily."

How to reach: Key Bank, www.key.com

Monday, 20 December 2004 11:13

Second life

A 79-year-old Cleveland businessman had a universal life insurance policy with a face value of $2.5 million. In early 2004, he decided he no longer needed the policy for estate-planning purposes, but the surrender value was only $19,000.

Instead, he sold the policy on the secondary life insurance market for $705,000.

Similarly, a 67-year-old physician was diagnosed with cancer. He had a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $801,000, but he needed the money now so he could retire earlier than planned.

The surrender value was only $78,000, but by selling the policy on the market, he received an offer for $363,000.

It's for reasons like these that some successful businesspeople are turning to the secondary insurance market, where investors and institutions purchase your insurance policy. Changing financial needs can make policies purchased years ago obsolete, but there may be significant amounts of money tied up in them.

"You can stop making payments on the policy, and it will eventually use up all the cash and die, or you can go back to the insurance company for the cash surrender value," says James Cavoli, CEO of Solon-based Life Settlement Insights, a firm that specializes in helping people sell off their unneeded policies. "The third way to dispose of a policy is to bring it to a broker."

The broker will take the policy and offer it for sale, usually to institutional buyers such as AIG or Berkshire-Hathaway.

"I recommend selling to institutions because they are the best run and the most rational with their offers," says Cavoli. "Buyers will offer you a lump sum of money for your policy. The buyer will then take over the policy and assume the responsibility of making premium payments, and will eventually collect the death benefit."

Calculations are made based on the discounted future value of the death benefit. The biggest factor is how long it will be before the policy can be collected. Sellers can expect to sign waivers for the buyer to examine health records. Once a value estimate is determined, an offer is made. If accepted, closing documents are issued.

"It looks a lot like a real estate transaction," says Cavoli. "There are a bunch of legal documents to sign to enact the transfer. It's roughly the size of a home mortgage transaction, and all the documents go into escrow with a closing agent who is not involved."

The money from the buyer is held in escrow until everything clears. The buyer also has 15 days to rescind the purchase.

"If the person should happen to die in that 15 days, the insurance money goes to the family," says Cavoli. "It also provides an opportunity for the seller to evaluate the documents and get comfortable with what they have just done. They can rescind out of the deal if they want."

Offer values are fairly simple. If a company thinks you are going to die soon, the offer will be higher. If you will live a long time, the offer will be lower.

It takes 30 to 60 days to go from application to getting an offer. Most offers typically are four to five times the surrender value of the policy.

"A life insurance policy isn't much different than a bond," says Cavoli. "It's an agreement to make payments over a certain period of time, and at the end, you get your principle back. You can sell your life insurance just like any other financial instrument."

How to reach: LSI, www.lifesettlementinsights.com.

Monday, 22 November 2004 10:50

Leading by example

Dick Pogue might be Cleveland's No. 1 fan.

Pogue, the one-time managing partner of the law firm Jones Day and former senior adviser at the public relations firm Dix & Eaton, has seen Cleveland in good times and in bad.

He says the difference between good times and bad often boils down to leadership in both the public and private sectors of Northeast Ohio. When there isn't strong leadership, the region suffers. When strong leadership is in place, the region prospers through a spirit of cooperation and getting people involved.

Pogue knows about both leadership and being involved in the community.

As managing partner, he led the Cleveland-based Jones Day (then known as Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue) from 335 lawyers in five domestic offices to 1,225 lawyers and 20 offices worldwide between 1984 and 1992. His six-page bio has four-and-a-half pages that list contributions as chairman or trustee to practically every major charity, foundation, university and civic organization in Northeast Ohio. He's helped raise millions of dollars for needy causes and energized people to get involved.

Pogue left Jones Day in 1994 to join Dix & Eaton, where he continued his civic and philanthropic leadership in the region.

Last January, he rejoined Jones Day with the simple title of adviser. He's utilizing his expertise and contacts to improve client relations and serve as a general troubleshooter.

Cleveland has fallen on hard times again, and Pogue, who turns 76 in April, would like to see it make another comeback.

Smart Business sat down with Pogue to talk about Cleveland and what it will take to create another renaissance for the city.

What does Cleveland need to do to make it a better place for business?

I think the best way to deal with that question is to look at history. In 1978, Cleveland was in far worse shape than it is today. It was really down. There had been two decades of decline, from 1950 to 1960 and through the '70s -- so 30 years really.

The '70s is when it got really bad. (Dennis) Kucinich became mayor, and for his own political reasons decided to put the city in default, and that created worldwide opprobrium. We were just laughed at.

That, I think, was the best thing that ever happened to the city. It really energized the business community to get involved. We had some strong business leaders at the time, and they decided the way to try to turn this whole thing around was to elect a mayor who understood economic development.

You had a series of populist mayors in the '70s, and they just had no understanding of business or job creation. So they (the business leadership) decided to ask (George) Voinovich, who had been a business-deal lawyer before he entered politics. He was then lieutenant governor, so he was in great shape to be the next governor.

They went down to him and appealed to him to come back and save the city. He took it somewhat reluctantly, but he answered the call. So business and government worked together for the next 10 years as a public-private partnership that would probably be unrivaled in, certainly, modern American history.

What did it take to get that started?

It really took that business leadership to get us going and figure out how to make and justify investments and take risks...and not kowtow to every political wind that blew. I think that started the comeback (that lasted from) 1980 to 1996.

We had a fabulous period of investment downtown that was tremendous. Millions of dollars (were invested), and the city formed marketing partnerships with the county, the Growth Association, Cleveland Tomorrow, the Convention Bureau and the Roundtable. They put some money together and really started to promote, and that got us worldwide publicity.

It was a wonderful period to be involved. The key part was the public-partnership that was led by business.

Area government spends a lot of time trying to attract new businesses, while many local businesses say it should focus on efforts on developing what's already here. Who's right?

It's a combination of both retention and attraction. Certainly the retention activities here have been pathetic. I've talked to businesses here who have never talked to anybody from the city or the county government -- not that local government is the solution to the problem, but there needs to be some contact. There's no outreach.

I think a promising development is Team NEO (a private regional economic development organization). To me, the key to Cleveland's future is the regional approach to problems, particularly in the private sector.

This creation of Team NEO was not easy. There was tension between the areas in Northeast Ohio. Now in the private sector, that tension has been mitigated. Particularly the heads of the chambers in cities now know each other; they work with and trust each other.

Any other thoughts on Northeast Ohio?

I think that right now, people are kind of down and discouraged. I think the thing to always remember is that these things always go in cycles. If you have a good, strong business base, and with the resilience we have here in Northeast Ohio, you can be optimistic that things are going to get better.

Look at New York City. Twenty years ago, it was regarded as the worst part of the universe, and then a couple of strong leaders came along. Now it's booming and is the financial capital of the world.

I like to think that we have all the conditions here to re-emerge as a very dynamic part of the country. It depends and turns on affecting this public-private partnership again, which right now we don't have. I think that's the critical element of our success back in the 1980s.

We ought to get away from this worrying about the city of Cleveland all the time. If you drive into some outlying areas ... there is a lot of activity going on. We have lost some big business here. Others are coming along to replace them, like Invacare, Steris and RPM.

I hate the continuation of the "Quiet Crisis" series in The Plain Dealer. They always want to talk about the negative. Sure there are problems, but there are good things going on in Cleveland.

I think particularly from the regional point, if you emphasize the assets and strengths the area has and re-establish the public-private partnership, we have a great opportunity to come back in a strong way.

It's just that we aren't quite working all together. I'm looking to business leadership to take the lead here. We have strong, professional firms, large law firms and tremendous strengths here. You have to deal with problems, of course you do, but you don't have to overemphasize them. I think we are hurting ourselves by not talking about the strengths as well. How to reach: Jones Day, (216) 586-3939