SBN Staff

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:47

Newsclips

Fussy about Mrs. Hargrove

Mike Hargrove may have been dismissed from his high-profile position as manager of the Cleveland Indians, but Akron-based Fussy Cleaners isn’t necessarily going to follow suit by dumping its commercial spokesperson, his wife, Sharon. At least not right away.

For the better part of the last year, Mrs. Hargrove has put her sassy West Texas twang to good use in radio and print ads for the chain, which has 18 locations in four Northeastern Ohio counties. In the radio spots, she can be heard singing the praises of her personal Fussy Cleaners delivery person, who dutifully and cheerily picks up and delivers the family’s laundry to their house (in Strongsville), thus making her life easier in preparing for her husband’s long road trips.

Fussy’s president and founder, John Baraona, met the former First Lady of Cleveland baseball at a meeting, where she spontaneously remarked how much she enjoyed Fussy’s service. That led to the relationship.

He says he’s made no decision yet on whether she’ll remain a factor in the chain’s marketing mix for this next year, now that her husband has been hired by the Baltimore Orioles.

“Our radio spots are going to continue to run until the current schedule is through, and then we’ll go from there. This is long-term, institutional advertising,” says Baraona, who has previously distinguished his company from the competition by running a series of restrained image ads on Cleveland’s public-television station WVIZ. “She doesn’t say, ‘Come on in.’”

And, he hastens to points out, lest one mistakenly conclude that his choice of spokespeople is influenced by his interests as a fan: “Sharon and I never talk about baseball. I’ve never even met Mike.”

So, now you know

According to Baker, Thomsen Associates Inc. — which provides survey reports on median salaries — if you live in Akron and you hold one of the following positions, you should be taking home an annual salary of ...

CEO $143,233

Director of Operations $73,789

Information Systems Manager $49,387

Purchasing Director $42,537

Public Relations Manager $40,095

Personnel Manager $40,019

Executive Assistant $31,497

Since these median salaries are those of entry-level positions, if you’ve been on the job for a while and your paycheck is below par, maybe you should talk to your boss. And if you’re the CEO? Take it up with the board of directors. Source: www.salariesreview.com/freedata

Corporate confessions

Successful CEOs don’t just remember their mistakes, they try not to repeat them.

But, as president and CEO of Davey Tree Expert Co. in Hudson — a landscaping firm employing about 250 people in Akron and 6,000 nationwide — Douglas Cowan says it’s hard for a CEO to let employees make their own mistakes.

Cowan says he made one of the biggest mistakes of his career by not firing a senior-level executive sooner.

“He’d been here a long time, he wasn’t doing the job that needed to be done, and we hung onto him too long — to the point where somebody could have come in and made things run a lot better, a lot faster,” Cowan explains. “It also resulted in a loss of morale in the department.”

The point is, Cowan says, “How do you allow the next generation to make mistakes that aren’t going to kill you, and yet will allow them to learn and grow?”

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Newsclips

Dave Moore, game over

Crystal Mortgage Co.’s nearly two year battle with the city of Amherst came to a close rather unremarkably as company CEO David Moore agreed to drop his civil suit against officials there. After spending $100,000 to fight a relatively inconsequential tax dispute with the city and running a campaign that successfully ousted city Law Director Allan Anderson from office, Moore agreed to call off the dogs in exchange for a simple public apology. With it, he proved that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Acquiring mind strikes again

Terrence Profughi doesn’t know the meaning of the word standstill. The acquiring mind CEO of Hi TechMetal Group (profiled in SBN’s August 1998 issue) purchased two more companies last month: IMT, of South Carolina, and Fusion Engineering Co., of Columbus. HTG is comprised of 22 strategic business units that have been started or acquired over the past 15 years. Under Profughi’s leadership, HTG has grown from $1.2 million in sales and 38 employees in 1984 to $55 million and 700 employees in 1999.

Knowledge is power

In a sign that Cleveland area businesses take software, hardware and the Internet seriously, six local organizations were the recipients of the first annual Cleveland-Area Knowledge Industry awards in November. TMW Systems Inc., PlanSoft Corp., Cleveland Live, Flashline.com Inc., Perritech, Lorain County Community College and Cuyahoga Community College were honored by the Northeast Ohio Software Association for their commitments to the emerging knowledge industry. For more information, visit NEOSA’s Web site at www.neosa.org.

Going rates

Ever wondered just how your company’s salaries stack up in comparison to the average? Do you get the employees you want in this tight labor market or do prospects choose your competitor’s firm over yours? Two Web sites let you benchmark your employees’ paycheck against the going rate. Baker, Thomsen Associates (www.SalariesReview.com/freedata) and the ERI Economic Research Institute (www.erieri.com/doltrends) offer insight into competitive pay rates for more than 3,000 jobs defined by city, state, region, experience and job responsibilities. Be prepared for a surprise.

Working the niche

QuickChange, the 10-minute oil change chain Tim LaGanke has built over the past four years, grew by 50 percent last year, with similar growth anticipated this year. LaGanke, who formerly co-owned Lube Stop chain, plans to open another six oil-change shops by the end of 2000.

LaGanke targets secondary markets and installs his patented modular 10-minute oil change buildings on affordable, often unusable lots about the size of four parking spaces. In addition to 12 QuickChange stores in the Cleveland market, there are 18 others around the country, which are owned and operated by private investors.

Ameritech New Media strikes again

Northeast Ohio cable companies should be afraid, very afraid. After popping up to do battle in 11 local communities, Ameritech New Media — the nation’s largest competitive cable company — is introducing a new fiber optic service in Garfield Heights. Boasting a “razor sharp picture,” 99.9 percent reliability, an interactive television listings guide and 24-hour customer-care line, Ameritech New Media may quickly catch the attention of other city leaders hoping to breath a little life into their communities’ dusty cable packages.

Not fading away

For anyone still thinking the Linux operating system is going to be a passing fad, there are solid new numbers showing its popularity is on the rise. In a national survey by California-based RHIConsulting, 57 percent of chief information officers polled believe use of the Linux system will increase over the next three years. Three percent projected a decline. The survey polled 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees.

Export growth

Ohio companies expect a dramatic increase in exports over the next five years, according to a joint study conducted by Xavier University and Cleveland State University, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Of the business owners who responded, about two-thirds saw a substantial increase in exports over the past five years. Almost three-quarters expect an export volume increase of more than 50 percent.

The forecast is good news because it seems to be just the opposite of the national trend, according to Dr. William J. Lundstrom, Professor of Marketing at CSU’s College of Business and a co-author of the report.

The U.S. has a growing trade deficit caused by the purchase of more goods and services imported to the U.S. than U.S.-made goods and services exported to other countries,” Lundstrom told Global Vision, a publication of the World Trade Center Cleveland. “The situation worsened rather than improved over the past several years.”

For more information on the report, visit www.wtccleveland.org.

Join the revolution

Small Business Survival Committee — a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization geared toward protecting the small business owner — released a disturbing report on the local telephone industry and its unfair treatment of small companies even after the Telcom Act of 1996.

“A thorough study of the current state of local telephone service leads to a simple conclusion: Even after the promises of the Telecom Act of 1996, the local telephone industry remains one of the most anti-competitive industries in America,” says SBSC Chair Karen Kerrigan. “With repeated attempts to gain access to local telephone customers being fought by Bell monopolies in practically every state, markets remain closed or difficult to penetrate.”

The SBSC is trying to convince lawmakers that small businesses need more local telecommunication choices to compete against large corporations, since upgrades promised by providers, the report points out, have gone largely unfulfilled. To obtain a copy of the SBSC report on local phone competition, click on “What’s New” at www.sbsc.org.

Lamson & Sessions on the defense

A U.S. District Court judge in Illinois in November denied Cleveland-based Lamson & Sessions’ request to set aside a jury’s decision to award Illinois-based Intermatic $12.5 million in damages in resolution of a patent infringement case. The court also ordered Lamson & Sessions to pay $1.5 million in prejudgment interest to Intermatic. The ruling came two months after a jury’s ruling that Lamson & Sessions infringed on Intermatic’s patent for an outdoor electrical outlet cover.

Passing the bell to generation three

Jess A. Bell Jr., grandson of founder Jesse G. Bell, has been named chairman and CEO of Bonne Bell Inc., a Lakewood-based cosmetics and beauty aids manufacturer. Bell takes over from his father, Jess A. Bell, 74, who assumes the post of vice chairman of the 72-year old company.

“We are now officially in the third generation,” says Bell, whose innovative use of senior workers was profiled in SBN’s April 1999 issue. “Very few private family businesses make it to the third generation.”

Hospitals get creative

Nine out of 10 of the 185 hospitals and other health care organizations surveyed by HR consultants William M. Mercer Inc. reported turnover among RNs was a problem. Organizations exceeding revenue of $500 million rated the problem as significant. Not terribly surprising, given today’s tight labor market. The shortage has forced health care organizations to sweeten the pot to keep RNs on the payroll.

Increasing base pay was the most common approach and rated as very or somewhat effective by 96 percent of respondents. “Pay raises are often excellent as a short-term solutions, but may be insufficient as a long-term approach unless employers also make other changes to the work,” says Mercer pay expert Jose Paogoaga.

Continuing education was rated as very effective by 30 percent of health care organizations, while flexible scheduling and shifts was at 28 percent. Although it looks like showing employees the money may be the most dependable option, Pagoda says it is an issue that can’t be avoided when an RN shortage means longer response times, a reduced capacity to treat patient or even errors.

“At some point, these negative outcomes will have an effect on a hospital’s bottom line,” he says. “It costs an organization one-and-half to two times annual salary to find and train a replacement for an employee who leaves.”

Do-it-yourself business valuations

You want to know the value of your business, but don’t want to hire a high-priced business consultant to do the work for you. Companies are cropping up with products allowing entrepreneurs to determine a value for their business in the comfort of their own homes. Colorado-based Innovative Professional Software Inc. offers a program to value your business for a mere $200. VALUware, a different business valuation program, is for sale at www.bizbookssoftware.com for $330. The only question seems to be whether any of these means of business valuation would hold water with the IRS.

Health care compensation blues

CEO pay packages at the nation’s largest publicly owned, for-profit health care companies remained flat in 1998, reflecting Wall Street’s continued skepticism of an industry troubled by a stunning drop in market value, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.

From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the median increase in total cash compensation, which includes base pay and bonuses, among health care CEOs was 5 percent, due largely to a median salary increase of 9 percent. However, total CEO pay packages at the largest health care companies declined — due mainly to poor stock performance — but nevertheless a rare phenomenon in the world of executive compensation.

A lesson in self-promotion

A survey at Chicago’s O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth International airports found 72 percent of business travelers were carrying at least one promotional product imprinted with a company’s name, logo or message. Even more incredible was the fact that 77 percent of those polled said they used the promotional product once a day. Pens and pencils topped the list of favorites, followed by clothing. But, before you go rushing out to buy those fleece pullovers bearing your company’s logo, consider that the Promotional Products Association International conducted the survey.

Customer cloning?

Ever wanted to find a batch of new clients just like the ones you already have? InfoUSA.com, a widely popular business-to-business Web site, is offering a “Customer Analyzer” that helps find new prospects free of charge.

“(It) takes the mystery and guesswork out of prospecting for new customers,” says Bill Chase, CEO and president of InfoUSA.com. “It answers the age-old question: How do I find really good sales leads for my business?”

Web site visitors are asked to supply the phone numbers of existing customers and click a specific geographic area to build the profile of new customers. The user can then search, sort and print the results. The list of prospects includes contact names, fax numbers and credit ratings. Impressive results for a few minutes of work.

Another chunk of medal for the collection

Cleveland’s youngest microbrewery, Western Reserve Brewing, added another national medal to its quickly growing collection — a silver at the Great American Beer Festival in the category of Belgian & French Style Specialty Ales for its Cloud Nine beer. More than 400 breweries from around the nation competed in the festival. The beer joins other Western Reserve winners American Wheat Beer, Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale and the seasonal Lake Effect Winter Ale.

Small companies and health care

Maybe it’s because small business owners have to look at

their employees every day, but recent numbers about employee health care costs are a bit startling.

Only 75 percent of employers with fewer than 250 employees require their workers to pay part of their health care coverage. Meanwhile, 94 percent of large companies with 2,500 or more employees require employees to pay part of their health care coverage, according to Watson Wyatt’s 1998/99 ECS Survey Report on Employee Benefits.

What drug abuse costs your company

If one of your employees is using on the job, it could be costing you as much as $10,000 each year. That comes from Cyndy Cook, director of marketing and sales for Clinical Health Laboratories Inc.

“In addition,” she says, “the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discounts premiums from 6 to 20 percent for organizations that develop a drug screening program in support of a drug-free workplace.”

The best care everywhere

A research corporation announced that the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is one of the nation’s top 126 hospitals, according to the 1999 Consumer Choice Award winners. Hospital consumers selected the clinic as one of those having the highest quality and image in 101 markets throughout the United States.

This is the fourth year National Research Corporation (NRC) has bestowed awards on hospitals. NRC President and CEO Michael Hays says the company expanded winning criteria this year to reflect composite scores on multiple quality and image ratings provided by consumers in NRC’s annual Healthcare Market Guide Study. Of the 2,500 hospitals rated by consumers, the winning 126 rank highest in their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 1999 study surveyed more than 170,000 households representing more than 400,000 consumers in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Newsclips

Now playing on channel F4

TV delivered over the Internet will create a new tier of niche content. Short videos on PCs will be commonplace by 2002; digital set-top box users will spend 10 percent of their TV time on ’Net video by 2004, according to Nua Internet Surveys.

Plenty of coal left for Christmas

A new report from the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions finds that despite a 9 percent growth in the economy during 1997 and 1998, energy consumption dropped more than it has in 50 years.

A major contributing factor is the information economy and the efficiency afforded by the Internet. Whereas traditionally global economic growth was synonymous with massive increases in energy consumption, the dawning of the technological era could mean this is no longer valid.

Because the Internet uses existing communications infrastructure, it is consuming a minute amount of energy compared to other industry sectors. The report finds that this is set to continue, and by the year 2007, the Internet will have contributed to previously inconceivable reductions in the world’s consumption of energy. Source: Nua Internet Surveys.

Here come the French

French users spent an average of three hours on the Internet in October, while British surfers spent four and Germans, about five. The average American home user is on the Internet for about five and a half hours each month. When work-related use is taken into account, this rises to about eight hours per month, according to a report from MMXI Europe BV.

Asian connections

According to a study by Forrester Research, 64 percent of Asian-American homes are linked to the Internet, twice the U.S. national average. Asian-American families also have a higher than average household income and spend more online than any other racial group in the United States.

Bank hold-ups rising

One in five users are likely to abandon setting up a new online banking account because of time-consuming red tape and complicated deposit procedures, according to a survey published by Frederick Schneiders Research.

Some companies in the financial services sector reported that up to 80 percent of those who began to open an account online did not complete the process. Despite this, 80 percent of U.S. consumers who use online banking services prefer them to traditional banks.

Free to a good home

The number of U.S. Internet users with free ISP accounts is expected to escalate to 13 million by the year 2003, according to research from Jupiter Communications.

Almost 13 percent of the ISP consumer market will use a free service as their primary service. While this will not threaten the subscription-based model, it will introduce flexible options. As most Internet users worry less about cost than they do about fast downloading and reliability, free ISPs are viewed as more of a niche market than serious competition for existing ISPs in the U.S. According to Jupiter, free ISPs will have to offer advertisers a sharply-defined user base as they are only expected to garner $901 million, or 8 percent, of total online advertising spending by 2003.

How to speak Australian: rip-off

According to Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Internet access rates in the Asia-Pacific region are higher than average because users are forced to subsidize American Internet users. While Australian ISPs have to pay to access U.S. Internet backbone providers, there are no reciprocal charges imposed on U.S. ISPs for access to Australian services. Essentially, Australian users pay to access U.S. Web sites while U.S. users get free access to Australian sites.

Billboardalongtheroad.com

Competitive Media Reporting announced that new media companies accounted for $775 million in advertising in the first half of last year, a threefold increase over 1998 figures for the same period. Meanwhile, a report from Zenith Media finds that the number of e-commerce companies wishing to use traditional advertising to push their wares has fueled global ad spending beyond expectations.

In Silicon Valley, online retailers were responsible for 17 percent of spending on radio ads and 11 percent of outdoor advertising in the first half of last year. Source: Nua Internet Surveys.

Someone has to eat crumpets

A survey conducted by Cranfield Management in conjunction with Microsoft finds that 73 percent of British executives do not believe technology is strategic to the growth of their business. The survey found that, on average, British directors allocate 8 percent of their time to the needs of their customers. This despite the fact that consumer power is growing exponentially as a result of the Web.

Who needs it?

New research from Cyber Dialogue finds that the rate of Internet uptake in the United States has slowed considerably, reflecting the gradual maturing of the market in the U.S. As a result, online marketers must invest heavily in customer relationship management and customer retention schemes.

The drop in pace is not a result of seasonal aberration; rather it is because of three major constraints, according to Cyber Dialogue. The most consistent is the so-called digital divide, those adults who cannot afford to own a PC or pay for Internet access.

Second, one-third of U.S. adults believe they have no need for the Internet and have no intention of getting online. Third, a significant number of U.S. adults have tried the Internet and found they have no use for it — they number 27.7 million, up from 9.4 million in 1997.

The servers are on, but nobody is home

A new report from Jupiter Communications finds that despite the critical need for more substantial customer support, the number of e-mail queries being answered is decreasing.

The survey sent customer inquiries to the top 125 Web sites in the retail, travel, content, financial services and consumer brand sectors and found that customer service failure rates are higher than last year. Only 37 percent of companies surveyed have integrated three or more customer service channels on their Web sites.

While half of shopping sites responded within a day and 40 percent of travel sites responded in one day, shopping sites demonstrated a 40 percent failure rate, up from 28 percent last year, while travel sites had a 48 percent failure rate, up from 38 percent.

Just under half of all Web sites tested, 46 percent, did not respond for five days or more, did not respond at all or did not have contact details on their site for customer queries. In the same survey last year, this figure was 38 percent.

According to Jupiter, the most frequently trafficked sites have to process upwards of 50,000 transactions per day and many are finding that fulfillment of these orders is stretching customer service resources.

Egghead domination

The latest figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show that computer hardware sites and automobile sites are the most popular shopping destination sites for adult males over the age of 18.

The top shopping sites for adult males were Egghead.com, Onsale.com, Dell.com, Buy.com, Compaq.com, Mcafree.com, Gateway.com, hp.com, Autotrader.com and Autoweb.com.

Yahoo! sales are through the roof!

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States, shopping transactions on Yahoo! were up 400 percent over the same day last year.

AOL announced that spending at the site during Thanksgiving week nearly tripled over the same week last year. Four million AOL members bought online last week and almost 600,000 of those were purchasing on the Internet for the first time. Toys, clothing, flowers and sporting goods were the products most favored by customers.

Companies hosting large Internet retail operations are experiencing a doubling of traffic every four to five months, with more than 6 gigabits of information sent per second during peak times, compared to 2-3 gigabits this time last year.

Many retail sites are experiencing site outages as a result of the unexpectedly heavy traffic. Customers are having difficulties logging into toy retailer sites and some companies are offering discount vouchers to appease disappointed visitors. Source: Reuters

Do you take Diners Club?

Twice as many U.S. adults used credit cards to buy products and services online in 1999 than did in 1998, according to research from Cyber Dialogue. While 9.3 million people used their credit cards to buy on the Internet in 1998, that has soared to 19.2 million. In 1997, 4.9 million people purchased online.

Almost 70 percent of respondents used Visa to complete their online transactions. One-third used MasterCard; 12 percent, American Express; and 8 percent, Discover.

Visa leads the field in terms of the total value of online transactions, but the survey showed that MasterCard and American Express have a higher share of dollars spent, partly because these cards are often used for higher value transactions, such as the purchase of travel tickets, online.

Forming resources

Targeted at small businesses and accessible from anywhere through a standard Web browser, Formsplanet.com hosts a catalogue of virtual business forms that can be customized, filled, issued and archived directly from the Web site. Far beyond paper replacement, this application service provider hosts efficient e-document technology to enable small offices/home offices to establish a more professional corporate identity without the expense of paper stationery, specialty software and server infrastructure.

Partners such as Entrust Technologies Inc. and Corel Corp. are working with Formsplanet.com to ensure that all types of documents, from invoices to time sheets to proposals, can be custom branded and stored securely in virtual file cabinets as they have never been before.

To visually enhance and customize business stationery, Formsplanet.com visitors can select from 1,000 professional-quality clip art images from Graphic Corp, a division of Corel Corporation and the world’s largest supplier of digital content.

Clueless in telecom

In a survey of 12 North American wireless carriers, Forrester Research found that 83 percent have not addressed the need for new business models and pricing structures for mobile e-commerce.

“Carriers have it all wrong,” said Mark Zohar, senior analyst with Forrester. The study, “The Dawn of Mobile eCommerce,” advised businesses aiming to compete in the wireless market to focus on developing new business models for mobile e-commerce and to review existing partnerships and pricing models.

According to Forrester, carriers investing in third generation wireless systems must look at what structures they need to put in place to deliver relevant, personalized location–based services on thin mobile applications.

To provide the services that consumers expect, carriers need to improve their data transfer capabilities. Existing cellular networks and infrastructures need to be upgraded, and this could cost billions of dollars, according to Forrester.

The group expects business users to be among the first mobile e-commerce consumers and advises mobile service providers to partner with small device manufacturers and develop travel-oriented content to retain early users.

Talking shop with my PC

Online retailers who have not invested in customer service could end up losing $3.2 billion in sales this year, according to a report from Datamonitor. Last year retailers with no customer service support lost up to $1.6 billion in sales.

A report from Datamonitor advises businesses to invest more in customer support and less in trying to garner new clients. Rather than spend exorbitant amounts of money on

marketing and advertising, these companies should start investing in live customer service.

As the list of excuses for substandard performance on e-commerce sites this year decreases — the technology is there and mistakes made last year should not be made this year — retailers are hoping to turn new shoppers into loyal shoppers this season.

Datamonitor advises retailers to invest in providing live customer support in the form of instant messaging, call centers or IRC technology. Less than 1 percent of sites have live support and Datamonitor says that 10 percent of sales lost could have been saved by contact with a person.

The research company projects that by 2003, 40 percent of companies will provide multimedia customer support.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Healthclips

Depressed about the flu

Experiencing an illness, such as the flu, causes psychological stress that can make people feel mildly depressed. It can also trigger depression in those who are prone to it.

“If someone is already depressed, that person is less likely to take care of themselves, such as getting a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Toby Goldsmith, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida. “Like any stress, the stress associated with being ill, such as missing work, may trigger depression in someone who is prone to depression.”

Goldsmith said a study shows those who are chronically stressed do not respond to the flu vaccine as well as others, and may be more vulnerable to the flu.

Warning signs can indicate if you are heading down a slippery slope toward being overstressed and include not sleeping well, fatigue and avoiding your usual day-to-day activities, such as watching television and eating.

If you are not back to your normal routine one month after having the flu, Goldsmith recommends talking with your physician to make sure something else might not be causing your symptoms. Source: Dr.Koop.com

Stress kills

A recent study by Canadian scientists showed that highly stressed heart patients did not respond as well as others to medication for angina and chest pain. The American Heart Association says patients with heart failure should take steps to reduce and manage stress to reduce strain on their hearts.

Of stress management in general, though, the American Heart Association (AHA) says that “the available data do not yet support specific recommendations for its use as a proven [prevention or treatment] for heart disease.”

How you cope with stressful situations may make a difference, especially if you habitually react to stress in ways that feed physically harmful emotions such as chronic hostility. Stress management is not about avoiding stress but, rather, learning to manage its recurring effects.

Everyone who drives gets cut off in traffic now and then and gets a burst of adrenaline produced by fear or anger. Some people can quickly relax and return to a normal physical state. Others stew about the incident, and make things worse by discussing it with others who share their hostility and feed it with stories of their own.

In heart failure, the heart muscle is weakened and the patient needs to take care not to make it work harder than necessary. It’s important to reduce physical symptoms of stress — a pounding heart and heavy breathing — as much as possible. Though avoiding all stress may be impossible, you may be able to adjust your activities to avoid stress triggers such as rush-hour traffic or long hours at work. Source: Lifescape.com

Smokers die

While cigarette smoking has been well established as a major cause of heart disease and stroke, some studies have suggested that its harmful effects are muted in smokers with low cholesterol levels.

Now, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of these diseases — even in low-cholesterol populations.

Look in the bottom drawer

Don’t skip meals. Eat a variety of foods every four or five hours. Keep snacks such as power bars, trail mix or dried fruits handy to fill in when time doesn’t permit a real meal.

Breathing uneasy

For some people, asthma is a minor annoyance — just a cough or two after they run. For others, it’s a life-threatening condition they live with every day. The number of cases is on the rise — more than 17 million people in the U.S. have the disease, an increase of more than 75 percent since 1980. As the number of patients has risen, so have the larger consequences of the disease.

Today, asthma is one of the top reasons for hospitalization of children, causing kids to miss more than 10 million school days a year and adults to miss 3 million days at work. It is responsible for more than 10 million doctor visits a year and will be responsible for more than 5,600 deaths this year, more than twice as many as 20 years ago.

Smoke is not a nutrient

Secondhand smoke, also called passive smoking, can have terrible effects on kids. Children who are exposed to smoke have more ear infections, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and a respiratory virus called RSV than children of nonsmokers. Children exposed to smoke have lower lung capacity and slower lung development than unexposed children, says Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

Over the long term, these kids are at increased risk of developing lung cancer and other conditions associated with smoking and stand a much greater chance of becoming smokers themselves.

Many parents may be unwilling or unable to quit smoking. But if they understand the dangers to their child, they may at least be willing to stop smoking around their children and inside the home.

The piercing truth

The American Dental Association doesn’t sugarcoat its opposition to oral piercing, which it deems a public health hazard. In fact, oral piercing would be obsolete if the decision rested solely in the hands of the ADA, according to Dr. Gary C. Armitage, a dentist and chairman of the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs.

That the topic had a place on the agenda of the group’s 139th annual session, held recently in pierce-happy San Francisco, says a mouthful about the widespread popularity of the practice, even among folks who floss every day. Oral piercing can result in a number of adverse oral and systemic conditions, according to the ADA.

Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, increased salivary flow and gum injury. In addition to the risk of infection, which is especially high due to the vast amounts of bacteria in the mouth, problems include airway obstruction after swallowing jewelry, prolonged bleeding, chipped or cracked teeth after biting jewelry, scar tissue, speech impediment and interference with X-rays.

The ADA joins other venerable medical institutions and organizations that have seen fit to address a wide range of concerns about puncturing body parts, including — but by no means limited to — ears, eyes, mouths and noses, as well as necks, nipples, navels and sundry genitalia.

The American Academy of Dermatology has taken a position against all forms of body piercing with one exception: the ear lobe. Skin specialists cited nickel allergies, cyst formations, chronic local infections and granulation tissue (fleshy bumps that form during the healing process of some wounds) as reasons not to pierce.

The ear lobe has been singled out because it's made of fibro-fatty tissue and has a good blood supply, which is crucial in case infection sets in, says Dr. Ronald Wheeland, a Santa Fe dermatologist. The piercing sites deemed especially problematic by the academy involve cartilage which, once infected, can whither and shrink because of a paltry blood supply, and complex tissue structures such as the nipples, which are more than simple skin and fatty layers.

The uncomplicated navel, although it has no ducts like the nipple or cartilage like the nose, has not received the same tacit approval from the academy as the ear lobe. However, individual doctors seem not to be as concerned about piercing the umbilicus as they are about other body parts.

As a precaution against the transmission of blood-borne diseases, the U.S. and Canadian Red Cross won’t accept blood donations from anyone who has had a body piercing or tattoo within a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed nonsterile piercing a serious health risk.

Although HIV transmission is a theoretical possibility — the virus that causes AIDS dies at room temperature — hepatitis is the real worry. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted in as little as 0.00004 milliliter of blood and can survive on blood-contaminated surfaces, such as instruments and doorknobs.

Cancer or clueless?

An estimated 4 to 6 percent of a doctor’s patients are considered hypochondriacs, says Dr. Brian Fallon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York and co-author of “Phantom Illness: Shattering the Myths of Hypochondria.”

For them, a headache is not caused by stress, but a brain tumor. Fatigue is not attributable to a poor night’s sleep, but AIDS. In a desperate quest to reassure themselves, they may visit doctor after doctor. Even after tests rule out a particular disease, they feel little relief.

The new wonder drug.

A recent study suggests that vitamin C may actually help people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

A report in a recent issue of the Lancet, an international medical journal published in Britain, presents the results of a small trial of vitamin C as a treatment for high blood pressure. Researchers from the Boston University Medical School and Oregon State University studied the effect of daily 500-milligram doses of vitamin C on the blood pressure of 39 people with high blood pressure.

The study subjects included 20 women and 19 men who were approximately 48 years old. At the beginning of treatment, their systolic blood pressure, measured when the heart contracts to pump blood, averaged 155 millimeters of mercury. Their diastolic pressure, measured between heart contractions, was about 87 millimeters of mercury. A person is considered hypertensive if his or her systolic pressure is greater than 140 millimeters and diastolic pressure is greater than 90 millimeters.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either the daily dose of vitamin C or a placebo. Neither the researchers nor the subjects knew which pills were given to which patient.

Subjects took the pills for one month, after which their blood pressure and vitamin C blood levels were measured. As expected, vitamin C supplementation significantly increased the vitamin’s blood levels. In addition, there was a significant decrease of 13 millimeters of mercury in the systolic pressure of subjects taking vitamin C. Those who received vitamin C also had a small decrease in their diastolic blood pressure, but this decrease was not statistically significant. The greater the change in the blood level of vitamin C, the greater the decrease in blood pressure.

How about a friendly wager?

The following signs and symptoms indicate compulsive gambling:

  • increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled;

  • spending the majority of free time thinking about gambling;

  • spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of personal or family time;

  • being preoccupied with gambling or with obtaining money with which to gamble;

  • feeling a sense of euphoria, an aroused sense of action or a high from gambling;

  • continuing to gamble despite negative consequences such as large losses, or work or family problems;

  • gambling as a means to cope with uncomfortable feelings;

  • “chasing,” or the urgent need to keep gambling, often with larger bets or greater risks to make up for losses;

  • borrowing money to gamble, taking out secret loans or maximizing credit cards;

  • bragging about wins but not talking about losses;

  • frequent mood swings — higher when winning, lower when losing;

  • gambling for longer periods of time with more money than originally planned;

  • lying or secretive behavior to cover up extent of gambling. Source: Drkoop.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Newsclips

Hey, that’s my name!

When Jamie Cain founded her Akron computer firm in 1995, she wanted to convey her company’s mission in her business name. So she went to great lengths to secure the identity that Internet companies are now clamoring to call their own.

If you’ve driven near the intersection of Arlington Road and I-77, you’ve likely seen her building’s 50-foot-high, 10 feet by 16 feet sign touting the company name: Dot.Com Technologies Inc.

“We’re a computer consulting company that does all the really complicated stuff in back-end Internet development, so I picked out Dot.Com Technologies and acquired first-use rights on April 4, 1995. But today, it’s an ongoing battle with other companies trying to say they’re ‘Dot.Com,’” she says, explaining that although the trademark remains unassigned, her attorney assures her that it’s her baby, due to her first-rights claim.

Unfortunately, Cain was too late to seize the same moniker for her Web site. So she settled for DTIServices.com. On the up side, she says the business name has boosted the value of her company.

Misplaced priorities?

When a patient recently attempted to schedule minor surgery recommended by her doctor, the appointment clerk expressed surprise that the procedure was being scheduled before the insurance company approved payment. The patient was, in turn, amazed that anyone would wait to see what insurance would pay — or even care if it did.

Hugh McLaughlin, D.O., of Cuyahoga Falls Family Practice, explains that managed care insurance has changed everything.

“It’s a whole different scene than five years ago. Today, many patients get so frustrated because their insurance won’t pay for certain procedures, and if it’s not covered, they’ll go without the procedure even though they know their medical condition will worsen.”

But there’s a twist, says McLaughlin.

“Often, these are the same patients who will argue about a $10 co-pay and show up in my office three months later with a $6,000 breast implant paid for out of pocket!”

Personal calls on company time?

Why would a business owner enlist the help of a private investigator?

Besides rounding up the usual suspects in cases such as embezzlement and missing inventory, Design Safety Investigations Inc. in Fairlawn gets some strange calls from CEOs. Company president Joe Forgach and his partner Andy Kasarda recently closed a case that involved some very personal calls on company time.

Alarmed at outrageous charges on his firm’s monthly telephone bills, a CEO asked Forgach to solve the mystery.

“It sounded like someone was going to porno sites on the Internet and billing it through the Internet Service Provider. Turned out, an employee was disconnecting the computer from its dedicated service line and putting a phone in its place to make calls to a porno establishment,” Forgach reveals.

Rather than providing a credit card number to pay the 900 number fees, the employee had the charges reversed.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:41

Newsclips

Profit is not a dirty word

Who says making a buck is a bad thing? Certainly not Jack Shoykhet, president and CEO of Gov24.com. That didn’t always ring true, however. During a Jones Day Reavis & Pogue e-commerce program recently, Shoykhet told the crowd, “In the city where I came from, the word profit was illegal. I love capitalism.”

Program sponsors Conley Canitano & Associates certainly agreed. Don’t we all?

Freer travel

The Employers Resource Council of Northeast Ohio has announced that businesses utilizing its online Travel Center to make airline reservations will not be charged the reservation transaction fee which is typical in the travel industry. The fee generally ranges between $10 and $25 per ticket. ERC members’ employees are also eligible to access the ERC site (www.wercnet.org) and make their leisure reservations online. The site features a full spectrum of HR and workplace information, services and benefits.

Who needs the Super Bowl?

It’s become standard, if a little risky, for Internet start-ups to blow their entire marketing budget on a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. But a Cleveland company proves you don’t need a lot of flash to get recognized. 1-Jobs.com, an Independence-based high-tech recruiting Web site, was ranked by PCWeek Online as the seventh-best site for those looking for high-tech workers. That places 1-Jobs smack dab between HotJobs.com and Monster.com, two operations that blew a bundle on Super Bowl advertising. Sometimes it’s not who knows you, but how good you really are.

Modern day wisdom

Business owners seeking their fortunes on the Net may be wise to listen to the voice of someone who’s been there. Todd McCormack, CEO of TWI Interactive, an independent subsidiary of Trans World International, reminds entrepreneurs: “E is just one letter of nine letters in e-commerce.” McCormack spoke at the Jones/Day e-commerce program. McCormack also took a poke at the tech industry’s biggest fish: “I can’t believe how rich Bill Gates will be when his products actually work.”

Self-employed on the Net

The number of self-employed Americans with Internet access has doubled in just two years, according to a survey of members of the National Association for the Self-Employed. More than 68 percent of those responding report they connect to the Internet at home or at work. A closer look reveals 39.7 percent access the Net at home and work, 20 percent at home only and 8.6 percent at work only. And for those wondering how much time those eyeballs spend in front of a computer, they average eight hours per week online.

What’s in a name?

Northeast Ohio is losing one of its best company names. Mozes Cleveland & Co., a Web development company specializing in intranet, extranet and Internet solutions, has merged with Quest4mation, an information services company specializing in consulting and electronic commerce. The new venture will do business as Digital Day. It’s certainly a modern sounding moniker, appropriate given the service it provides. But we can’t help but shed a tear as we reflect on our city’s past and the man whose name we bear so proudly.

A high-tech venture

National City Corp. and Cuyahoga Community College have formed an alliance designed to bring high-tech jobs to Northeast Ohio residents. The venture calls for National City to fund the establishment of Techno Venture, a series of “super camps” on Tri-C’s three campuses. The camps will train 350 students, grades 9-12, in the computer technology necessary to become professionally certified for high-tech jobs. The alliance also provides National City with access to the college’s students for part- and full-time employees.

It’s good to be a woman

The U.S. Small Business Administration has nearly tripled both the number and dollar value of approved loans to women entrepreneurs since fiscal year 1992. According to the SBA, there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, which account for 40 percent of all business. These ventures employ 27.5 million people and account for $3.6 trillion in sales. And women are starting new firms at twice the rate of all other businesses.

Not so elementary

Canton-based Diebold Inc. used the recent CeBit 2000 technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany, to unveil its new “Watson” technology. The revolutionary ATM-like kiosks adjust to a user’s’ physical traits and consumer tastes using a mix of biometric technology and the Internet.

The result is a personalized experience that could one day make your corner ATM about as cutting edge as a rotary telephone. The Watson system identifies consumers as they approach the terminal, eliminating the need for a personal identification number. By accessing pre-registered information, the machine automatically adjusts to a consumer’s physical needs.

The interface also allows access to items of personal interest, such as customized stock reports and movie listings via an Internet connection. Meanwhile, the unit’s color laser printer allows for the creation of hard copies to take with you. With technology like this at our doorstep, can those Jetsons-style TV phones be far behind?

Innovation for sale

When it comes to developing new products, a recent study shows America’s fastest growing companies acquire intellectual properties from others to gain a competitive edge. PricewaterhouseCoopers interviewed 449 CEOs of companies identified by the media as America’s fastest growing. It found 49 percent of those CEOs license technologies or intellectual assets from others, while 27 percent are involved in joint ventures and 15 percent invest in smaller, independent businesses as an extension of their research and development.

Ironically, only half the businesses surveyed have a formal process for identifying and managing their own intellectual property assets. Consequently, only about one in four that hold IP assets end up licensing them to others.

Trade shows make the cut

Don’t worry about the Internet replacing the traditional industry trade show any time soon. In a survey of 250 business executives conducted by Chicago-based Incomm Center for Research and Sales Training, 91 percent believed the traditional industry trade show would survive the information age.

When asked why they believed the Internet would not send the traditional exposition the way of the dinosaurs, 55 percent pointed to the networking opportunities provided by such events; 35 percent said the hands-on ability to see and discuss a service or product is hard to replicate online; and 10 percent said questions are answered better when visiting an exhibit in person.

Counting their blessings

On April 8, a dozen Cleveland area clergy representing a wide variety of faiths and spiritual beliefs blessed Western Reserve Brewery Co. Gavin Smith, CEO of the award-winning brewery in Midtown Cleveland at 4130 Commerce Ave., says there is a considerable body of historical precedent for the intertwining of beer brewing and religion, and the idea of blessing the Western Reserve Brewing Co. had been bouncing around in his head for awhile.

“This is something we’ve always planned to do, and for some unknown reason, we’ve just never gotten around to it,” he says.

EDR Media strikes Olympic gold

When marketing specialists at Cleveland’s world renowned International Management Group needed a cutting-edge presentation to sell sponsorships for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, they turned to Beachwood-based EDR Media. The company responded with a top quality sight and sound DVD showcasing great Olympic moments for IMG marketing specialists to take with them on the road.

Cliff Hughes, director-interactive media for EDR Media, says the big-name sponsors IMG is seeking required an impressive, yet portable presentation. “Given the stature and significance of the Olympics and the high profile of IMG’s target audience of upper level corporate management, they wanted the quality of the presentation to make a strong statement about the quality of the sponsorship,” he explains. “The fidelity of the audio and the resolution of the video on DVD really sets this presentation apart, and it can easily be played on a laptop computer.”

Olympic gold part II

Beachwood’s Allen Telecom Inc. will make sure every cellular phone at Sydney’s Olympic Park works properly during this year’s summer games. The company is deploying technology that allows the use of a large number of cellular phones in the same area without excessive interference. Olympics officials worried that the massive popularity of cellular phones in Australia may create problems for the main Olympic venue, expected to draw up to 500,000 visitors a day, especially as people call family and friends to share the excitement of the occasion.

Walking the tightrope

Owners of small and medium-sized businesses say their top goals are achieving significant personal wealth and making time for family, according to a survey by Chicago-based George S. May International Co. That may not be terribly earth-shattering, but the 75-year-old business management consulting firm reports that now, more than ever, business executives think they can achieve both of these goals. Seventy percent of those surveyed reported they have established or are working on a business plan that includes the integration of time-saving procedures that will help them with this delicate balance of work and family.

“American business decision-makers are consciously saying they want and know how to have their cake and eat it, too,” says Donald Fletcher, president of George S. May International. “Before this current age of telecommuting and ‘mommy tracks,’ you had to choose between fortune and family. Now, it is possible to achieve a work/life balance — but it requires planning.”

Wildlife profiling?

Rudy Socha, the president of Lorain-based WildlifeCollectibles.com, recently sent out 15,000 customer surveys to members of her Dolphin Whale & Shark gift store in an attempt to assemble a profile of her average customer. Thirty-six hours after sending out the surveys via e-mail, she received 223 responses and discovered some interesting information about her customers’ online habits:

  • Eighty-one percent of the shoppers who responded to the WildlifeCollectibles.com survey were women.

  • Sixty-five percent visited between one and three new e-commerce Web sites a week.

  • Customers made an average of 11.1 online purchases a year and reported an average of 7.4 purchases a year from traditional catalogs.

  • Forty-four percent of shoppers spend between $21 and $30 when buying a gift on the site for a “non-immediate” family member. Thirty-three percent spend less than $20, while 13 percent spend between $31 and $50.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Newsclips

Measuring success

Gov. Bob Taft honored Solon-based Keithley Instruments Inc. last month as the 2000 recipient of the Thomas Edison Award Recognizing Global Leadership in Technology. A Sept. 13 ceremony and reception was held at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus.

It's been a pretty solid year for company Chairman and CEO Joseph Keithley. His company's stock has performed better than ever over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the high-tech measuring device firm was also recognized Sept. 7 at the SBN Innovation in Business awards and took top honors in the technology category of Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur Of The Year" contest last summer.

Learning.com

OfficeMax Inc. and Arthur Andersen Virtual Learning Network have teamed to offer online learning and educational resources to small- and mid-sized businesses through Officemax.com. The companies said the online service will launch later this month and will initially offer more than 100 Web-based courses and two custom CD-ROM courses.

"Our core customer is the small business with less than 100 employees," said Ryan Vero, OfficeMax's head of e-commerce. "VLN will provide our customers convenient and cost effective access to online training." Officemax.com recently conducted an online customer survey to find out what services are most desired. The top-rated request was access to online training programs.

Saving for a rainy day?

A decline in national saving in the United States may negatively impact both the growth of the U.S. economy and the living standards of future retirees, according to Jagadeesh Gokhale, an economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He notes in a recent article that the strong performance of the U.S. economy during the past five years is often attributed to robust growth in private consumption.

But, he points out that greater consumption also means lower savings and fewer resources available for investment. This savings decline doesn't bode well for the living standards of future retirees, since the consumption usually reserved for the retirement years is being eaten up by many people during their earning years. Gokhale's solution: think about saving more money and be aware of the gap between actual savings and what you will need to maintain your lifestyle in your golden years.

Virtual HR

If you're looking for practical, authoritative human resources information and tools, CCH Inc. believes it has just what you're looking for in its new Web site, http://hr.cch.com. A source of employment and human resources law and compliance information for more than 60 years, CCH has created what it believes to be a one-stop, complete Web resource.

"Whatever the HR professional needs, CCH is delivering it with authority to the desktop at http://hr.cch.com," said CCH Health and Human Resources publisher Jim Gallas. Well, then, how about delivering a bunch of qualified workers looking for jobs?

New York state of mind

Even if the New York City hotel where you want to stay is telling you it's booked solid, a Connecticut-based Internet company wants to hook you up with a room at a discounted price. Www.hotres.com, has access to guaranteed blocks of rooms at 30 of the most popular motels in the heart of Midtown Manhattan and can confirm your reservation over the Internet even when the clerk at the front desk tells you there are no available rooms. Meanwhile, you'll probably even get a bit of a price break by using the service to make your reservations.

The site also caters to the newbie N.Y.C. tourist with a repository of maps and information that can help even the most clueless visitors find their way around town.

24/7

If your employees no longer work a traditional 9-to-5 workday, your company's not alone. According to a recent survey by Management Recruiters International Inc., 61 percent of more than 3,500 executives polled predict the 9-to-5 workday will disappear within the next 10 years.

The survey revealed that changing workplace trends -- telecommuting, working from home and even working while on vacation -- have relaxed business owners' demands for traditional work hours. It's a reflection, they say, of changing lifestyles and a greater emphasis on a healthy work/life balance.

Have you heard ...

Still on the fence about whether those in-store demonstrations help push your product? Consider this: A nationwide survey of pet owners conducted by the Pat Henry Group found that nine out of 10 respondents first heard about the product being demonstrated at a store demonstration, either the day they were surveyed (80.4 percent) or at a prior store demonstration (8.8 percent).

Name swap

It seems like there are more company name changes today than ever before. The most common are from longer names to shorter, more descriptive and catchier monikers. Temporarily Yours Placement Services has joined the ranks of the transformed. The full-service employment agency recently adopted a new name -- Employworks -- to better describe its services, says company president and CEO Michael J. Lehmann.

"I feel very positive about this," he says. "We are taking a step in the right direction to better serve our clients and employees."

Where the roots are

Just in case you've been wondering what's sparked the new economy, consider this explanation. The information technology revolution isn't new, asserts Jerry Jordan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

While advances in information technology allow ideas to spread faster and new techniques and processes to spill over into other sectors of the economy, it's no different than the impact caused by the printing press, telegraph and telephone.

"The fundamental determinants of healthy economies are the same as they ever were," Jordan writes in a recent Fed article. "So long as the right environment exists, markets will flourish, and in that environment individuals and markets will adapt to shocks. And as they adapt, the face of the economy changes."

Jordan says that so much attention has been devoted to debating whether the economy is new that business owners have overlooked the importance of the infrastructure that has led to the burgeoning economy. By focusing on the developments in the infrastructure, Jordan says, you'll be able to see the roots of a strong economy.

Let the good times roll

Northeast Ohio business owners say they believe the good times will continue, but they're not willing to bet the ranch on it. A whopping 83 percent of decision-makers across the region say they're "very optimistic" or "optimistic" that current business conditions will continue, according to the results of a Small Business Monitor survey by the Greater Cleveland Growth Association.

That leaves 17 percent who aren't so sure that the economy isn't headed for a downturn some time this year, the study says. Continuing troubles in the labor market -- specifically recruiting and retaining quality employees -- is the top reason for the not-so-sure attitudes.

Extending a training hand

Vocational Guidance Services, a Cleveland-based nonprofit organization that provides vocational training and job placement for disabled and disadvantaged individuals, has stepped into the Digital Age. VGS recently opened a state-of-the-art computer lab.

The lab, which houses 71 computer workstations, features several computers outfitted with voice recognition programs and other high-tech functions that cater to people with disabilities and those making the transition from welfare to work.

Public recognition

Ohio Auditor Jim Petro has been named the recipient of the 2000 In Tribute to the Public Service Award of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Creating a work force

The Cleveland chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, a trade organization representing the precision custom manufacturing industry, has developed strategic partnerships with NTMA members, universities and partner organizations. New initiatives and programs have been developed and implemented to identify and train young men and women throughout Northeast Ohio in metalworking skills.

Locating The Source

The Cleveland Jewish News has debuted a new reference guide, The Source: Guide to Jewish Living in Northeast Ohio. The full-color, glossy magazine covers the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Elyria, Lorain, Warren, Youngstown and Sharon, Pa. The publication will include stories of both local and national interest, a calendar and explanations of Jewish holidays and terms.

Economic impact 101

Working for Empowerment through Community Organization, an economic and community development organization that supports businesses and credit unions, is $15,000 richer thanks to a grant from Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio. The money will be used to impact more than 540 individuals.

Quick tips

Nobody ever said customer service was easy. So what's the best way to serve your customers?

According to Carson Cole Associates, the answer is simple -- ask them. Here are CCA's three strategies for maintaining customer service:

1. Make it easy for your customers to talk to you. Solicit feedback through a telephone call, e-mail, a short letter or face-to-face meetings. Contact your customers the way the prefer to be contacted, and do it often.

2. Ask customers about their experiences. Be prepared to be genuine and sincere. Train your staff to help customers share -- particularly the bad experiences.

3. Most important, be willing to change. Thank your customer for their honesty and promise them you will fix problems. Then do it. If similar customer service complaints are voiced by more than one customer, fix the problem

New name, same beer

Cleveland's Crooked River Brewing Co. has repackaged and renamed its fall seasonal beer formerly known as Erie Nights Pumpkin Brew. When it appears on store shelves this year, it will be known as Crooked River Pumpkin Harvest Ale. The change is designed to make the beer less associated with Halloween and more with the season.

Conferring statewide

State Development Director C. Lee Johnson has announced the Ohio Department of Development's Small Business Innovation Research Program and its partners will host the 2000 Ohio SBIR Conference at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Columbus. The two-day event will take place Oct. 11-12. For more information about the program or to register, call (614) 466-3887 or (800) 848-1300, ext. 6-3887, or visit www.odod.state.oh.us/tech/sbir.

Exit info

One of the most valuable HR tools at a company's disposal is the exit interview. "Assuming the departing employee has no ax to grind, information gleaned during exit interviews can give companies valuable insight on topics such as office morale," says Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.

The question is, how do you use that information? According to an OfficeTeam survey, 13 percent of employers always act on the information they get. Another 62 percent said they act somewhat frequently. Sixteen percent rarely act, while only 1 percent indicated they never use the information. The remaining companies either did not conduct exit interviews or did not know how often they used the info.

Domeyer offers the following tips for conducting an effective exit interview:

1. Set the stage. Meet in a neutral location and make it clear the information won't be used against the departing person.

2. Consider a third party. Even an employee who is leaving may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics, such as office politics, with a current supervisor. It may be wise to bring an HR representative to conduct the interview.

3. Act on serious situations. Never ignore a departing employee's claim of mistreatment or discrimination. Refer the matter to your internal legal or HR department for investigation.

4. Ask the right questions. Use open-ended, general questions at first, but be prepared to get specific.

5. Take emotions into account. Depending on whether the employee left on good terms, exit interviews should be viewed as one of many information sources. A hidden agenda could influence what a former staff member says during an interview.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Newsclips

Take pride

Chairman emeritus of FirstMerit Corp. Howard Flood says there's a big difference between local entrepreneurs and CEOs of major corporations. What sets them apart is pride.

"Entrepreneurs are prouder of who they are, what they are and what they do. And if they do something wrong, their attention to remedies will be so much quicker than the hierarchy of a major corporation," says Flood. "That's because the entrepreneurs are generally stalwarts in the community who are well recognized, and a mistake affects them more when they walk into church or into the grocery store."

E-Debt acquires competitor

Akron-based E-Debt.com was listed in a September issue of Business Week magazine as one of the leading Internet sites in the debt sales industry. The company has acquired Debtforsale.com, another of the debt sales dot-coms listed in the Business Week article.

The acquisition will add several hundred new potential buyers and dozens of additional portfolios to the E-Debt.com site, says CEO Michael Zoldan. E-Debt.com is a Web-based marketplace for the real-time trading of debt portfolios, with an emphasis on security and customer service.

Back and forth

As technology makes it easier to work from just about anywhere, more Northeast Ohio residents are commuting to Summit County than ever before.

The total number of daily work trips to Summit County has increased 36 percent over the last 20 years. Of note: 16,000 workers commute to the Akron area from Stark County; 10,000 workers commute from Cuyahoga County; and 16,000 commute from Portage County. But about 27,000 Akron-area residents commute to Cuyahoga County to work. Source: ARDB Workforce Development Department

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:50

Newsclips

Addresses of originality

E-mail has changed the way we work, play and bond. While some say e-mail is an impersonal means of communication, an e-mail address can provide a unique way to project a personalized image.

Some e-mail identities are downright eye-catching, with hidden meanings that reveal a slice of personality. For example, the '70s Beatles hit record "Revolution" obviously had an impact on Howard Cleveland, because 20 years after it was released, the Internet linchpin and CEO of Digital Day in Akron chose a personal e-mail address that reflects his perspective on how computers have changed the world: DigitRev@xxx.com.

With an e-mail address like Isenborg@xxx.com, it's not hard to guess that Bob Isenberg, creative director for Wern Rausch Locke Advertising Inc., is a devoted fan of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." His colleague, Betty Williams, office manager at the Canton advertising agency, designated flair@xxx.com as her e-mail identity -- inspired by the vanity license plate on her little red Corvette that has, you guessed it, flair.

When presentation skills consultant Leslie Ungar incorporated her company, she named it after her world champion show horse, Electric Impulse. For her business e-mail address, Ungar combined her first initial and last name with the horse's nickname, Impi. "What I didn't realize is that in computer language, it's all translated to lower case. So instead of getting LUngarIMPI@xxx.com, I ended up with lungarimpi@xxx.com!"

Even if you don't know Rick Mullins, a sales associate at an Akron area Radio Shack, it's not hard to figure out what his passion is. With the personal e-mail address runmoose@xxx.com, Mullins is unmistakably an avid runner -- and his alter ego is Bullwinkle.

Sheri Roberts Tennant, owner of Shericho Diversified Office Services in Minerva, is addicted to Looney Tunes, as evidenced by her e-mail address, SheriTunes@xxx.com. Her spouse, Doug Tennant, a creative designer at Star Bronze in Alliance, says he uses his initials in the prefix of his e-mail address, DETbunchie@xxx.com, but reveals the "Bunchie" is his wife's pet name for him.

Stacy Wessels, president of the Image Factory Inc. in Akron, protests that, despite how her business e-mail might be misconstrued, she's not a fink. "The IF in IF-inc@xxx.com stands for Image Factory, of course. But I included a hyphen before the 'Inc' so it wouldn't be misread as 'I Fink' -- which is certainly not the image I want to project!"

Online expertise

Stark and Knoll, a 15-year-old Akron law firm, is tapping into the full potential of the Internet. In September, it launched an affiliate e-company, Transaction Support Group, to provide 24-hour assistance with mergers and acquisitions.

The site is supervised by a corporate attorney, who acts as transaction manager. Services include examining due diligence, reviewing contracts and documents, preparing schedules, obtaining consents and waivers, processing financial documentation and coordinating payoffs, lien releases, mortgage filings and funding. The site can be accessed at www.transactgroup.com.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:49

Newsclips

Power breakfast

A funny thing happened on the way to Morocco. Actually, it happened at a palace resort on Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania.

Hugh McLaughlin, a physician at Cuyahoga Falls Family Practice, was having breakfast with his vacation travel companion, the director of an Akron-based international tire manufacturer.

"We were surprised when the president of Tanzania walked into the room, but when he walked up to our table and sat down, we were stunned," says McLaughlin.

Audaciously, the Tanzanian ruler told the tire manufacturer he wanted "a little Christmas present."

"He told my friend to give him $12,000 if he wanted to keep his factory running in that country," McLaughlin exclaims.

"It was amazing. President Clinton had just given this president $12 million two days before, but I guess that wasn't enough, because here he was, trying to squeeze every other American businessman he heard was in town," McLaughlin laughs.

Who wants to be a millionaire?

If your business provides computer training, what better way to conduct your job interview process than to have candidates demonstrate their teaching talents?

During its recent search for a qualified instructor, Fairlawn-based New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc. had 15 prospects make five-minute presentations to a class audience.

"The topic they chose didn't matter, because we were looking for classroom presence, voice projection, speaking skills and eye contact," says Mark Koenig, New Horizons' general manager.

Among the applicants -- including retired college professors, former teachers, sales reps and other professionals -- one presenter demonstrated how to make a pressman's hat.

"There we all were, making paper hats in class," Koenig laughs.

Another candidate with a sales, computer and musical background explained how to make a million dollars by uploading personally composed music onto MP3.com.

In the end, the choice was simple, says Koenig.

"What helped us decide was the applicant's strong presentation, audience rapport and, of course, computer strengths," he says.

After all, everyone wants to be a millionaire.

You must be so proud

Speaking of highly rated game shows, you might be proud because your son or daughter is a doctor, a lawyer, a biochemist -- whatever. But Doug Cowan has something bigger to boast about.

"My son is the creator and executive producer of 'Temptation Island,'" crows Cowan, chairman and CEO of The Dave Tree Expert Co. in Kent.

Cowan says his son, Chris Cowan, got his start after studying film production at Ohio University, and launching Rocket Science Laboratories, a film production company in Hollywood, Calif.

"Before this show, he and his partner already had an impressive resume, even winning an Emmy in 1998 for a TV special they did. But this is their first series, and the numbers are just incredible," says Cowan.

Asked how he feels about his son's creative role in such a highly rated production, Cowan chuckles, "Highly rated, or highly racy?"

Way cool business tool

Think cool. Think high-tech. Think again.

Many executives rely on cutting-edge tools, such as PDAs, PalmPilots and Handsprings. But Ray Gehani prefers something that seems archaic, considering his profession.

"For 20 years, I've been researching, practicing and teaching technology management, yet my favorite business tool is Post-It Pads made by 3M," says Gehani, assistant professor of management and international business at the University of Akron's College of Business Administration.

"Post-It Notes are perfect for capturing, storing, retrieving and developing my intuitive insights that pop up at odd times and places. They're my best knowledge management system for the 21st century, better than any electronic gadgetry on the market," Gehani coos. "And 3M didn't pay me to say all these wonderful things about their simple product, which is based on a sophisticated surface coating polymer technology."

Interestingly, as part of the university's Technology Management Group, Gehani specializes in polymer technology.