Troy Sympson

On November 28, the 2012 Midwest Social Media Summit will be held at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven in Cleveland, OH. This one-day-conference will offer tips and insights from social media experts and top business leaders who will help you reconsider your strategy or validate your approach.

For more information and to register, click here.

And as a special bonus to our Smart Business readers, we're giving away five FREE tickets to the event! To enter the contest, simply do one of two things:

  • Visit the Smart Business Twitter page and follow us. Then just send out a tweet that says, "I don't want to be anti-social. I want to attend the 2012 @Smart_Business Midwest Social Media Summit!"
  • Visit the Smart Business Facebook page and like us. Then post to the page, "I don't want to be anti-social. I want to attend the 2012 Smart Business Midwest Social Media Summit!"

We'll draw the winners on Monday, Nov. 19.

For additional information, please contact Anne Hydock at ahydock@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7041.

Wednesday, 04 January 2012 19:42

The 2011 Weatherhead 100

The Weatherhead 100 was crafted in 1987 when Bob Pavey, Managing Partner of Morganthaler Partners, first noted that Northeast Ohio needed a venue to properly acknowledge, support and praise companies that were the fastest growing in the region. Pavey suggested that Enterprise Development, Inc., the former not-for-profit subsidiary of Case Western Reserve University, not only identify, but bestow a genuine sense of honor upon the fastest growing companies in Northeast Ohio.

Since 2004, the Weatherhead 100 is compiled and managed by the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). For more on the Weatherhead 100, visit Weatherhead100.org.

But, the Weatherhead 100 coverage doesn't stop there. As the new media sponsor of the Weatherhead 100 – a partnership between The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) to recognize Northeast Ohio’s fastest-growing companies – we’ve launched a microsite at www.weatherhead2011.com to share more insight from the winners.

But before you head to the microsite, stay right here. We've got a lot of Weatherhead 100 content to digest, including:

The 2011 Weatherhead 100 List

The 2011 Weatherhead 100 Centurion Winners

The 2011 Weatherhead 100 Upstart Winners

Also, our own Gregory Jones was able to sit down with some of the Weatherhead 100 winners. Check out these in-depth profiles:

Changing media - How WTWH Media embraces technology to develop quality offerings and fuel growth

Customer service resolution - How Alan Jaffa drives growth at Safeguard Properties

Array of inventory - How MFS Supply remains adaptable and customer focused to grow its business

Uplifting focus - How Mazzella Holding Co. has grown through market segment development

Catering to growth - How Normandy Catering is growing a niche with minimal competition

Opening up - How Recon Logistics uses an honest approach to achieve its growth

Man’s best friend - How OurPets Co. has used an innovative love for pets to become an industry leader

OK, now you're ready to dig even deeper. At the microsite, you can get closer to the secrets behind these companies' successes through Q&As with the CEOs. As Weatherhead 100 winners, these companies have contributed to our communities and demonstrated the region’s entrepreneurial spirit – growing sales as much as 6,000 percent in the process. Read more to learn what makes these winners so successful.

The leaders continue to submit responses on overcoming business challenges, driving innovation through their companies, making a difference in their communities, and other lessons they’ve learned as leaders, so keep checking the microsite for updated content.

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 15:02

From the hearts of our sponsors

The sponsors of the 2011 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service support the program because they believe in its mission — to recognize the critical tie between the for-profit and nonprofit communities. Here is a little bit about each of this year’s sponsors:

Duke Energy Center

It is the goal of Global Spectrum at the Duke Energy Convention Center to provide our clients with an experience that goes above and beyond their expectations. Our commitment to service, attention to detail, ability to listen carefully and respond to every request will enable us to achieve this goal one event at a time. We are fully committed to delivering the highest level of building management and operations in the industry. We take pride in our facility and the community it represents and understand our role in bringing people to Cincinnati and helping them experience all the great things the city has to offer.

Although it originally opened in 1968, the Duke Energy Convention Center experienced its third grand opening in 2006 as the city of Cincinnati unveiled the results of the most recent expansion. At that time, Global Spectrum was hired by the city to manage all aspects of the more than 750,000-square- foot Duke Energy Convention Center. Featuring more than 750,000 square feet of exhibit, meeting and entertainment space, we are the ideal destination for your next meeting, conference, convention, trade show or banquet.

As part of its corporate responsibility programs, Global Spectrum is committed to reducing the use of natural resources and the amount of waste that results from the

various activities and events that take place at the Duke Energy Convention Center. These efforts are part of a corporate initiative called the Global Spectrum STEP UP Program, which is a program designed to distinguish us as a socially and environmentally responsible organization.

Our efforts to develop of buildingwide recycling program to increase the operating efficiency of the Duke Energy Convention Center began in April 2008. As the program has continued to evolve and expand, we have developed strong partnerships with Hamilton County Environmental Services and The Recycling Group to grow our support and promotion of recycling. Since the inception of our recycling program, Global Spectrum has diverted more than 350,000 pounds (as of Dec. 31, 2009) of post-consumable material from the landfills.

Learn more at www.duke-energycenter.com.

Colortone Staging & Rental Inc.

Colortone Staging & Rental is a premier audiovisual and staging company with expertise in event design and production. We stage a multitude of events, including corporate meetings, awards banquets, special events, trade shows, concerts, webcasts and videoconferences. CSR also manages audiovisual equipment for hotel properties and operates a full-service equipment rental division. The solutions we provide, combined with our highly trained technical staff, ensure the success of every event. Our quality is unmatched and our attention to detail is unsurpassed.

The staff at CSR consists of the best in the business. Our technicians have an average of five years in the audiovisual and event management business. Their diverse backgrounds allow us to think on our feet, act quickly and provide flexibility and creative problem solving to every situation we find.

The company is also an active member of the community, consistently finding ways to give back where it can.

Learn more at www.colortone.com.

The Eisen Agency

The Eisen Agency has a longstanding tradition of community service and giving back to our community – some in visible ways and others that are truly behind the scenes. Every member of our firm is part of some local non-profit organization, where we do far more than simply sit on boards and committees – we proactively “do.”

We donate literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind work to non-profit groups that could otherwise not afford our expertise. We help local schools, and twice annually do a large food drive and cleaning product drive to help those less fortunate.

As Cincinnati’s premier and most awarded public relations firm, we believe whole heartedly in the power of community relations to foster further brand communications with current and prospective clients, business and community leaders, and in building a positive image of our business and creating a positive work environment. We believe that professionals want to work with and work for organizations that are actively engaged in the community, and strive to help out.

It can be said that “it’s just PR,” as if PR was a bad thing. We would say “darn right it’s PR, it’s what our firm is, who we are and we’re proud of it.” Because, in the truest sense of the term, we are blessed, through hard work, tenacity and determination, to be a in position to be able to relate to our publics through a series of community relations and philanthropic programs that provide children toys for Christmas, food on tables, and volunteers and donations for several of Greater Cincinnati’s most recognized non-profit organizations.

Learn more at www.theeisenagency.com.

The Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service, presented by Smart Business, honors businesses of all types and sizes that make outstanding contribution to their community. Its purpose is to encourage a charitable enviroment, recognize creative efforts that make a difference and demonstrate the ties between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

This year's winners will be honored at a special banquet on January 18 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, OH.

But before that great event takes place, we welcome you to take a look at how these kind and selfless individuals and companies do what they do.

An introductory letter from Rick Chiricosta, President and CEO, Medical Mutual

Pillar Award for Community Service honorees:

Medical Mutual SHARE Award honoree:

Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award honorees:

Executive Director of the Year Award honorees:

Rising Star honoree:

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award honoree:

A list of our fine sponsors

The Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service, presented by Smart Business, honors businesses of all types and sizes that make outstanding contribution to their community. Its purpose is to encourage a charitable enviroment, recognize creative efforts that make a difference and demonstrate the ties between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

This year's winners will be honored at a special banquet on January 26 at The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, OH.

But before that great event takes place, we welcome you to take a look at how these kind and selfless individuals and companies do what they do.

An introductory letter from Rick Chiricosta, President and CEO, Medical Mutual

Pillar Award for Community Service honorees:

Medical Mutual SHARE Award honoree:

Charles Penzone Salons Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award honorees:

Rea & Associates Executive Director of the Year Award honorees:

CVG Samaritan Award honoree:

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award honoree:

A list of our fine sponsors

Understandably, the company mindset is always to be looking forward. So, when a company hits a milestone with a product it has had in the development pipeline for a lengthy period of time, the natural inclination is to pause (briefly) to celebrate the accomplishment, before turning attention to the next product. This pattern of constantly looking to the next and the newest challenge is essential to continued growth and innovation, but it is also the source of major problems when, after several years have passed since approval, a product becomes the focus of litigation that has the potential to sprawl into hundreds, even thousands, of cases.

This puts the company into “panic mode” as it is confronted with the need to make critical strategic decisions in a highly compressed period of time based on an overwhelming amount of fragmented and incomplete information — often with no reliable guide to explain the company mindset during the approval process and to shed light on why certain actions were taken while others were not. Litigation “time capsules” are a proactive step intended to help address this problem.

“Litigation time capsules are designed to capture relevant information and key documents, and to identify and clarify the mindset of decision-makers at the point when product milestones were achieved,” says Kevin M. Zielke, a member and the practice group leader for the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Litigation practice group at Dykema Gossett PLLC. “All of this information would be captured while memories are fresh and documents are close at hand, and then would be stored away such that, if the product faced litigation down the line, the company would have ready access to it. Armed with this information, the company is in a much better position to make the important strategic decisions necessary so that it has the best prospects for litigation success.”

Smart Business spoke with Zielke about litigation time capsules and how they can help a company minimize litigation risk.

Why are litigation time capsules so useful and why don’t more companies utilize them?

The problem is that when something good happens — a new product has made it through the development pipeline to approval, for example — no one wants to spoil the party by raising the possibility of future litigation. That, however, is precisely the time when undertaking this effort is imperative. The ounce of prevention that a company gains by taking the additional time and effort necessary to work with its attorneys to develop these time capsules has the potential to provide pounds of cure when, in the event of litigation, the company can avoid being caught flat-footed by the informational disadvantage that often exists at the outset of litigation.

While these time capsules can prove enormously helpful in the products liability context, where the company faces the prospect of many lawsuits being brought relating to a particular issue, they can also be used when significant corporate transactions or real estate deals are concluded. Essentially, they provide a snapshot of the then-existing facts, circumstances, key players and driving forces at the time the product was approved or the deal was done.

Why are litigation time capsules so important for businesses to have now?

Today, the need for ready access to key information years after the milestone has been achieved is made all the more critical by two fairly recent developments. First, the ready availability of inexpensive and potentially limitless electronic storage means that those tasked with responding when litigation has been brought are confronted with a veritable ocean of potentially relevant materials that may be stored on hard drives, servers, backup discs, external drives, flash drives, cloud storage and the like. Second, the increasingly rootless nature of company personnel frequently means that those who were responsible for key decisions or who possess information necessary to effectively respond to the litigation are no longer with the company and not readily available to discuss these issues. As a result, capturing the most relevant materials and having immediate insight into the thinking at the time are essential.

What are the consequences of not appreciating these risks?

Now, perhaps more than ever, successful companies have to confront the fact that the litigation target is on their backs at all times, and have to build this sensibility into their culture by making it part of standard operating procedure. The failure to do so means the company will find itself forced to make key strategic decisions based on whatever information those charged with formulating the response were able to cobble together in the often highly compressed time frames found in the litigation context — after that the company will be largely locked into those early strategic decisions. That’s why litigation time capsules work so well: you can wrap your head around lawsuits and respond to them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Kevin M. Zielke is a member and the practice group leader for the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Litigation practice group at Dykema Gossett PLLC. Reach him at (313) 568-6908 or kzielke@dykema.com.

Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:07

The 2011 Pillar Award for Community Service

The Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service, presented by Smart Business, honors businesses of all types and sizes that make outstanding contribution to their community. Its purpose is to encourage a charitable enviroment, recognize creative efforts that make a difference and demonstrate the ties between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

This year's winners were honored at a special banquet on December 7 at LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility in Westlake, OH. Check out our live blog of the event.

Take a look at how these kind and selfless individuals and companies do what they do:

An introductory letter from Rick Chiricosta, President and CEO, Medical Mutual

Pillar Award for Community Service honorees:

Medical Mutual SHARE Award honoree:

FirstMerit Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award honorees:

Rea & Associates Executive Director of the Year Award honorees:

Fairmount Minerals Sustainable Business Practices Award honoree:

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award honoree:

For a full list of all the award nominees, please see: The honor roll

The judges who had the unenviable task of picking the winners

A list of our fine sponsors

Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:04

The 2011 Pillar Award for Community Service

The Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service, presented by Smart Business, honors businesses of all types and sizes that make outstanding contribution to their community. Its purpose is to encourage a charitable enviroment, recognize creative efforts that make a difference and demonstrate the ties between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

This year's winners will be honored at a special banquet on December 7 at LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility in Westlake, OH. Check out our live blog of the event.

But before that great event takes place, we welcome you to take a look at how these kind and selfless individuals and companies do what they do.

An introductory letter from Rick Chiricosta, President and CEO, Medical Mutual

Pillar Award for Community Service honorees:

Medical Mutual SHARE Award honoree:

FirstMerit Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award honorees:

Rea & Associates Executive Director of the Year Award honorees:

Fairmount Minerals Sustainable Business Practices Award honoree:

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award honoree:

For a full list of all the award nominees, please see: The honor roll

The judges who had the unenviable task of picking the winners

A list of our fine sponsors

Monday, 14 November 2011 21:03

The changing role of salespeople

A salesperson’s job is to make contact with those that are potentially in need of the products or services the salesperson has to sell. They need to utilize as many tools as possible to find a way to make contact with the “right” person.  Historically at Blue Technologies, our sales force would hit the streets, knocking on doors and talking with businesses within their territory to find out what they are currently using for their office equipment needs. Typically, they could find out enough information during that cold call and use that information to get a chance to show their products.

The rapid advancements in technology have given consumers and businesses the ability to connect faster than ever before. The fast growth comes with a downside, however — the options are now endless. Users must sift through mountains of white papers and case studies to determine what the best option is. A number of users seek out references and opinions on the best products and services on the Internet. But, users and sales forces now have a tool that can help them connect in ways they never could have before — social media.

An example of how social media has changed a salesperson’s role is our Managed Print Services (MPS) division. This group has recently gone through a transformation as to how they do their prospecting. MPS allows us to monitor and manage a businesses’ printer fleet. This has become an asset to companies, as it relieves the amount of time that their IT staff spends just maintaining their output devices. We have seen a change in how we need to approach and sell this service. The process begins with a list of companies that have a high number of employees, or more specifically sixty printers or more in their network. The MPS professional’s job is to make contact with the right person at these companies. They now utilize tools such as LinkedIn, Jigsaw and Twitter to find out as much information as possible prior to even making a phone call. The amount of research that can be done prior to the first meeting has allowed our sales professionals to already know something about the person, both personally and professionally. When a salesperson can make a connection with a prospect because they share an alma mater, colleague or friend, that is priceless. In an industry that is flooded with competitors, differentiating  yourself is one of the most important keys to setting you apart from the competition. The bottom line is that people buy from people. In today’s world, buyers would much rather buy from someone that they can trust, and if, for instance, their brother’s best friend knows the sales rep, then that trust bond can be built faster than ever before.

Social media channels allow the salesperson to become a consultant to their users. Our sales force now utilizes LinkedIn as much as possible. They are connecting with their customers and posting events. They are sharing their knowledge with their connections and providing a resource to buyers seeking out their products.

Knocking on doors to find out information still happens today and will not go away,  however, now when we knock on the door we can already have the ability to know who we need to ask for and possibly what problems their organization is currently experiencing. Knowledge is power — the more you know the better it is for both buyers and sellers.

For more on social media and business:

Social media and recruiting

Social media and marketing

Embracing social media

Kelly Waite is the Marketing & Database Manager of Blue Technologies. Reach her at (216) 271-4800 or kwaite@btohio.com. Visit Blue Technologies on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Monday, 14 November 2011 20:48

Embracing social media

You are now officially out of excuses. Social media is here to stay, and if you're not on board, your business may be left behind. Even presidents and CEOs who previously had no idea of the major impact social media could offer are realizing the importance of timely and direct customer interaction.

Blue Technologies started incorporating social media in their business practices over a year ago. At first it was to have an online presence in each social media channel. However, they needed to get more out of it.

Blue Technologies brought in a recent college graduate to serve as a marketing intern. It was natural that they assigned her to take over the social media outlets, because she had already been using them in her personal life, and it was an easy cross-over to business social media. From there she was able to teach the staff how beneficial these programs could be to the company and how to utilize them in their sales efforts.

The social media world was meant to be fun, hip and young, but with its ever-growing popularity, all generations of employees must get on board. The ability to connect to current and new audiences and attracting them to your brands is priceless. Incorporating Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in your advertising materials and websites is a simple and cost-effective way to send your message to places you never could have before.

It's true that young people invented social media and are generally the ones that eat, drink and breathe it. And yes, they might be the only ones who truly get it and are able to use it to its full potential, but that's only because they have made social media a part of their everyday lives. All it takes is a little time and effort and you too can become proficient in social media.

It’s not a secret that younger generations want to showcase their social media skills — it makes them feel important; like they have something to offer since they don't have much — if any — real life work experience. Companies would be well-served to take advantage of this enthusiasm to enhance and grow business. Bringing in a younger person to spearhead your social media efforts is win-win. You get all the benefits of a social media presence, and for the employee, social media is not a job, it's fun.

Also, utilizing social media as a means for research has cut down the amount of time one has to spend looking for information to provide to current/future customers, as well as potential job candidates. Connecting the social media generation to the baby boomers allows for an easy transition of being able to share knowledge from one generation to the next.

Social media isn’t our future, it’s already here. Embracing social media is a way that all generations can come together and learn how to better understand and better improve business practices.

For more on social media and business:

Social media and recruiting

Social media and marketing

The changing role of salespeople

Kelly Waite is the Marketing & Database Manager of Blue Technologies. Reach her at (216) 271-4800 or kwaite@btohio.com. Visit Blue Technologies on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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