Despite the increasing popularity of electronic payments, nearly 60 percent of all business-to-business payments today are made via a paper check. Here are some ways to ensure your checks are secure.
- Use checks that are imbedded with watermarks and microprinting. These features deter fraud by making reproductions more difficult.
- Use checks made of heat-sensitive ink and paper, which are more difficult to reproduce using basic photocopying equipment.
- Use electronic bank account statements if available. Paper bank account statements put you at greater risk by making sensitive information accessible through the mail.
- Keep track of your checks. It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to protect your business from fraud is to keep track of where your physical checks are at all times. Don’t leave checks sitting out for others to steal.
- Add a positive pay or payee positive pay service to your business accounts two add-on services available through most banks. For a nominal charge, any checks processed through your corporate checking accounts will be carefully scrutinized.
A positive pay service starts with you sending a list to your bank of all checks issued. The bank matches the check number, dollar amount and account numbers of all inbound checks against your list.
Any checks that do not match your list are flagged for review. With most positive pay services, you can go online to review images of your checks that are flagged as exception items. You reduce disbursement risk by easily reviewing suspect items and alerting the bank whether to pay or to return.
With payee positive pay, when providing your bank the check number and dollar amount of checks issued, you also include the payee. Again, you may review exception items online and alert the bank to pay or to return the check.
Technology is helping businesses secure their payables and receivables when electronic payment formats are being used.
- Automated clearinghouse payments (ACH). It is cost effective for suppliers and customers to pay via ACH. However, you must provide your bank account information before an electronic payment can be initiated.
While necessary, it puts your accounts at risk. With a Universal Payment Identification Code (UPIC), you can receive electronic payments without disclosing confidential bank information.
Your UPIC number serves as a universal remittance number and masks your real account numbers. UPIC technology also limits account activity to credit payments and blocks all debits. If you should move your accounts, the UPIC number remains the same.
- Credit card payments. To protect credit card payments, both Visa and MasterCard have implemented universal precautions for businesses that accept credit card payments.
The standards require companies to follow certain procedures when handling cardholder data and include a number of criteria, such as quarterly network scans and audits by qualified independent security assessors to ensure merchants and service providers protect cardholder data.
- Purchasing cards. New technology is now available to enhance controls on purchases made by employees with purchasing cards. This technology enables your organization to instantly manage the available credit on individual purchasing cards.
Technology advances also let you to limit purchasing activity through an array of card-spending controls, including monthly and per-transaction limits, as well as merchant spend categories that only permit use of the card with certain merchants. Some card programs provide online access to manage these parameters directly from your desktop computer.
This was prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as specific advice or recommendations. Any reliance upon this information is solely and exclusively at your own risk.
Benjamin Willingham is sales manager for corporate banking in Ohio at PNC Bank, National Association, member of The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Reach him at (512) 651-7558.
Actually, it’s more than a few converts he’s shown more than 10,000 contractors the light.
Conway runs one of the nation’s fastest-growing businesses; last year, iSqFt ranked 50th on Inc. magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list.
“Right now, my top challenge is to keep the organization and its structure in sync with the pace of growth,” he says.
And growing it is. Over the past four years, Conway has driven sales growth of 496 percent and expects this year to close in on $15 million in revenue. Since last November, he’s hired 75 new employees, bringing his staff total to 185.
“We’re doing it by continually looking at the old adage that structure follows strategy,” he says. “We’re trying to continue to modify and organize our people and our company in a way that supports sustained growth.”
Smart Business spoke with Conway about the techniques he’s used to spur such rapid growth.
How have you built converts among general contractors?
The adaptation of technology in the construction industry is inherently slow. It’s a high-risk, low-return business, so inertia is kind of built in.
Changing a process is not something that is readily done, but we have created online and in-person training seminars that expose the technology and the value [it] delivers to prospects.
How do iSqFt’s products benefit them?
There are two primary products. Both create efficiencies and save clients money. One is a subscription service that enables trade contractors to go online, look at documents for commercial construction projects and search, sort and evaluate those projects to determine which ones they want to bid on.
The second enables general contractors who are frustrated with the costs and risks associated with free construction to better manage communication, their database and directory of subcontractors, and better manage their documents.
How have partnerships with industry associations helped your efforts?
Construction is like politics in that it is local. To have the credibility of a well-established trade association in a local market gives us a platform to educate, communicate and develop a market.
We’ve made several, including with the Associated General Contractors of America. Those are very important relationships, and we spend a lot of time and energy cultivating them. If we put our energy and our resources behind strengthening our partners’ position in a local or regional market, then ultimately, we both end up stronger.
How difficult has it been to attract and retain employees during this growth spurt?
Retaining has not been a challenge. Attracting the right folks at the right time, we’ve had some challenges with that. But we’ve worked hard, at least in our local market, to make people aware of our company and what we are doing.
Have you found any drawbacks to the growth?
Bringing new people in and communicating to make sure everyone is on the same page is a challenge. Communication is critically important. We’ve got a whole range of things that are both internal and external.
I’ve actually traveled more in the first six or seven months of this year than I have in the previous two years combined. That’s all about communication. It’s all about getting in front of our partners, customers and prospects and letting them know what we’re all about.
How much of your job becomes, instead of managing the organization, selling the value of it?
The No. 1 salesperson in the organization is typically the CEO. Whether I am selling the culture of the company to new employees or I’m selling an application to a prospective contractor, it’s always selling.
From my perspective, selling is a principal component of what a CEO in a fast-growing company does every day.
Does that allow you time to set the vision for growth?
In almost every selling situation, the vision for the company gets explained. You have an opportunity to share your view of the future with prospective customers, prospective employees, current customers, current employees and partners.
And because it evolves, sometimes you have to get back out in front of them for a second or third time.
What challenges have your recent acquisitions posed?
During the nine to 12 months leading up to the acquisitions, the amount of work that was required to gain the confidence and trust of the companies we were acquiring so that we ultimately got a transactions completed was tough. It takes a lot of energy before a deal gets done to get the deal done.
Some of the acquisitions didn’t include a tremendous amount of employees to integrate, but there were technology integration challenges customer conversion issues, for example. If I was using this product and then upgrade or modify the product, I have to get retrained.
Do you envision future growth will be organic or through additional acquisitions?
Both. The acquisitions we typically make expand our geographical coverage and/or the scope of our service offerings, so there’s kind of an organic component post-acquisition. The future looks extremely bright.
We’re continuing to expand geographically and expand our product offering. This industry’s adoption of technology is still in the very early stages. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to grow our business by offering innovative services and being at the forefront of leading this industry.
How to reach: iSqFt, (513) 645-8004, www.isqft.com
Accounting degree, master’s degree in finance, Xavier University
Managed Burger King restaurants in Northern Kentucky
What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
You must always, always, always tell the truth, act with integrity, never mislead anybody about anything, no matter how bad it hurts. Everything you ever say or do comes back on you. I have never seen it fail, whether we deal with one another internally or whether we’re dealing with a customer.
The world is such an ephemeral place. A lot of times you might be tempted, when you disappoint a customer, to maybe say something that’s misleading. The customer winds up searching around to solve the problem, and if they felt they’ve been misled, you never get that customer back.
There’s no point to it everyone understands that it’s not a perfect world. So when you act with integrity, you’re putting someone’s best interest in front of your own embarrassment or your own disappointment. And the only way to meet or exceed a customer’s expectation is to deal with them with integrity.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I’ve got a lot of mentors. Probably the greatest inspiration to me was a philosopher by the name of Napoleon Hill. ... He was the first person to organize a thought process on how to succeed.
Many people have stumbled across it, but what you find out is once you understand this person’s thought processes, you can look at almost any other person and start to appreciate who those people are and how hard their job is, and that they’re probably pretty decent folks or else they couldn’t get to where they’re at.
What has been your greatest pleasure in business?
It is really, really a pleasure, when you have a successful company, to associate yourself with other people who aspire to do good things. The hardest person for us to find is someone who is inspired, who is coming in with the flame every day, someone who has a vision, who has a burning desire to see things in this world get better. And it is such a pleasure for me to work with really quite a few people today that I’m able to work with and share in their enthusiasm. That really is exciting.
I’ve hired people from a lot of larger organizations in the last few years, and I used to just laugh ’til I cried when I’d come in and say, ‘Lets talk about this,’ and (they’d say), ‘OK, give me my opinion, and I’ll go get it done.’ It’s like, where did you learn to think that way?
So it’s great to watch people transform when they realize they can go do things and they’re empowered to make decisions and that they’ll take the accountability for it. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
Make integrity No. 1.
Integrity is everything. Integrity means the banks, because I’ve demonstrated that they can trust my financial statement, they know I don’t cheat on it, they lend me money because I do what I say I’m going to do with the money.
Our customers trust us that we mean it when we say we’re going to give 24-hour maintenance. Our employees trust us because we don’t lie to them, we don’t deceive them. We’re always in their corner; we’re always trying to help them.
People want to do business with us. I’ve bought $20 million deals on a phone call and a handshake, just because they know we’re going to show.
You have that reputation, you have integrity, they check around, and if Harry says he’s going to do it, that’s what he’s going to do, and if he says he’s not going to kick the tires, he’s not going to kick the tires.
At the end of the day, integrity is at the core. It starts at the top and it filters down, and if the boss doesn’t have it, the other people don’t have it.
Delegate duties, set the standards.
I don’t get involved in the details anymore. I’ve become a good delegator.
My role is to still set the standard for integrity and set the standard for the quality product that we offer. I tell everyone, ‘I’ll worry about the vacancies. You take care of the properties, and I’ll worry about the economy.’ My role is to set an example and keep the standards up.
If we buy something or refinance something or sell something, then I’m involved in that.
Give it to them straight.
People would say that I’m tougher than nails, but people would also say that I’m extremely polite. I treat people with tremendous respect.
I’m not a dictatorial person. I’ll call it a strong personality, I don’t have a problem saying, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ Or saying to someone, ‘You know what, you really disappointed me. I gave you an opportunity, and you’re just a crook.’
Be prepared to work hard.
Leaders have always been hard workers. Life’s too short just to move slowly and not want to go anywhere and not want to accomplish anything.
Fending off boredom might be a strong motivator for me. It takes a maniac to want to survive that early part, getting that first six units or that first thing or starting that first little manufacturing plant.
Sam Walton started off with one little store, and he wanted to make it so good that people would want to shop there. He’d drive all night to pick up some dumb-ass stuff that he could sell and make 10 cents apiece on.
Most people don’t have the intestinal fortitude. You’ve got to be able to take on risk and be scared that you’re not going to be able to make your payroll and your mortgage payment and the roof’s going to cave in.
Find the best employees.
When I give talks to small investors now, the first thing out of their mouths is, ‘How do you find good employees?’
And my answer to that is, ‘If you have a couple of weeks sometime, and I have a couple of weeks sometime, which I don’t, I’ll explain it to you.’ People think you find good employees by a clever ad or money.
You can’t go to Procter & Gamble and find a bad employee; they just don’t exist. Their process of screening is unbelievable. So it starts with that.
You have to have a company that would attract quality people. I hire people with tremendous integrity. I used to be stupid and hired people and tried to change them, but that never worked.
So now, that’s a real hot button with me. Do they do what they say they’re going to do? You’re constantly weeding people out that don’t get it.
Follow your passion.
You have to have passion, and if you asked any successful person, the first thing out of their mouth would be passion. You have to have a passion for your business, a take-no-prisoners, I-will-not-fail attitude.
People will say, ‘Well, he got lucky.’ Nobody gets lucky forever. If we play cards enough, we all get the great hands and the lousy hands. So obviously, there’s more to it, because some people win consistently and some people lose consistently.
Reasonable intelligence helps. I think emotional intelligence, which is what I have, versus academic intelligence, is 95 percent of it.
HOW TO REACH: Fath Properties Inc., www.fathproperties.com
“There are several factors that should go into selecting a graduate program,” she says. “Things like a match in academic interest or career goals, flexibility, cost and accessibility of program faculty are all important factors to consider when searching for the right graduate program.”
Smart Business spoke with Hoskins about the benefits of obtaining a graduate degree when changing careers and how prospective students can select the right graduate program.
What should adults look for in a graduate program?
There are a number of things to consider. One is the size of the college and the graduate department, including the student-faculty ratio. Do smaller classes with close student-faculty interaction work best for you? It’s also important to consider the school’s admission requirements,. For example, are exams or essays necessary for admission? Adults with family and career responsibilities should also consider the program’s flexibility, including the availability of evening, weekend or online classes. Also explore scholarships, grants and loans. For example, graduate students in religious studies and one of the Mount’s programs in special education are eligible for tuition grants.
Most importantly, adults should find a program that fits their interests and career goals. Sometimes people choose an institution solely based on prestige and forget to focus on whether the program is a good match.
What are the advantages of seeking a graduate degree for career change?
One of the best advantages of a graduate degree is that it can often open the door to more expanded career opportunities, making graduates more marketable.
For some people, an advanced degree provides self-fulfillment to obtain a lifelong dream. This is especially common among people who are changing careers later in life.
Of course, an advanced degree can often provide increased financial rewards as well.
There’s also the intrinsic personal intellectual satisfaction that comes from obtaining an advanced degree. Some people simply enjoy the challenge of learning and receive tremendous gratification from obtaining a graduate degree.
What services should graduate students expect from the college of their choice?
Many schools, including the College of Mount St. Joseph, provide students with personalized services. Prospective students should expect to have direct contact with the graduate admission office as well as department chairs, program directors and faculty to obtain all of the information necessary to help them make an informed decision. This face-to-face interaction is crucial in helping prospective students understand how the program will benefit them and what they can expect from a career standpoint.
Information sessions are another important way for prospective students to have direct contact with faculty and staff. Once enrolled as a student, there are several ways colleges assist students, including providing an adviser to guide them through the graduate program from start to finish.
Students should expect to receive support and assistance from the college or university through career centers, tutoring and other services.
How can adults identify the right graduate program?
Start with researching prospective schools, which can be easily done online. Then consider visiting colleges or universities that meet your interest. A personal visit to speak with graduate admission staff, faculty or current graduate students provides a great opportunity to learn more about the institution and graduate program. Many program directors and department chairpersons are available to talk with prospective students.
How can adults best use graduate programs to work toward a new career while continuing in their current job?
It really boils down to doing some research about how the program is structured and how that structure will fit into your life. Many programs are offered on weekends, evenings or even online, allowing people to work full-time while obtaining their degree and working school into their lifestyle.
MARILYN HOSKINS, MS, is assistant director for graduate recruitment in the Graduate Admission Office at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Reach her at (513) 244-4723 or Marilyn_Hoskins@mail.msj.edu.
Vasquez brought a financial profit and loss discipline to the company and redefined Butler’s mission, vision and strategy.
Within a year, Butler was back on track and making money, but Vasquez knew a bigger change was needed the family that owned the company needed to give up its control. An exit strategy was developed for the family, and in 2004, Vasquez became president.
As part of the strategy, Vasquez brought in an outside investor to assist in the buyout. Vasquez had earned a 20 percent stake in the newly held Columbus-based company, a stake he subsequently distributed to the company’s employees.
With Butler turned around, Vasquez today president and CEO completed an acquisition that resulted in Butler becoming the largest veterinary distribution company, serving more than 25,000 veterinary clinics across the United States.
For Vasquez, one of the keys to Butler’s success has been a commitment to the vision and strategy of the organization. Every employee’s knowledge and support of the vision is essential to the company’s success, something Vasquez believes in so strongly that the mission statement “Satisfy the customer, to deliver the right product at the right time at the right price” is posted on the restroom walls.
To ensure the company is meeting that goal, more than 80,000 customer satisfaction surveys are mailed out to measure the company’s performance. With a 97 percent satisfaction rate, Butler is succeeding.
How to reach: Butler Animal Health Supply, (614) 659-1716 or www.butlerahs.com
He made that vision a reality, and today, Integrated Mobile is a provider of mobile services for more than 200 Fortune 1000 companies.
Pugh’s success in the technology industry came in a roundabout way. After attending The Ohio State University on a scholarship for golf caddies, he began his career teaching high school physics in Washington, D.C.
“I learned that the secret wasn’t in teaching physics but in motivating my students to want to learn physics,” Pugh says. “Once I focused on being a motivator and not a teacher, something magic happened. They learned physics.”
That experience carries over to inspiring his team today when he tells people that they do not have jobs, but instead are building the company.
“Passion is contagious,” says Pugh, COO of Columbus-based Integrated Mobile Inc. “If you show your passion for your clients, your employees will be motivated to perform for them.”
To back that up, he tells all employees, “If you aren’t feeling (motivated) today, give me a call and I’ll breathe some life into you.”
Pugh ventured into technology with an idea for a credit card reader that could be operated through a mobile phone. And from that beginning, he saw an opportunity to provide end-to-end management of an organization’s wireless needs. Companies were struggling to manage their mobile phone costs and device management, and by providing technology support, hardware maintenance and tracking, bill analysis and cost center allocations, Integrated Mobile has saved them time and money by helping them to better manage their wireless assets.
Pugh is now focusing on providing seamless, efficient wireless management services, based on Six Sigma principles. He believes that wireless applications will become more powerful and an even greater element in the way business is done, and is positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that will provide.
How to reach: Integrated Mobile Inc., (614) 839-9923 or www.integratedmobileinc.com
It was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Shortly thereafter, he left AT&T to join the Wang team. At the time, Wang had developed a new electronic document technology called Document Management, and Patsy saw that it had huge potential for use in paper-intensive industries such as banking, insurance, government and health care.
The health care industry had the lowest barriers to entry, so Patsy approached his employer with the idea of pursuing that market. When Wang turned him down, Patsy took a leave of absence from the company to pursue the opportunity on his own.
In 1989, he presented his business plan to the University of Cincinnati, which told him not only was it interested in the technology, but that it couldn’t afford not to pursue it. Patsy resigned from Wang the next day, and for 18 months, went without a salary, mortgaged his home and used up his life savings to stay in business.
In 1997, the company’s rapid growth and market changes nearly caused him to lose control of the company. Faced with the decision of selling at a loss or doing something drastic, Patsy took Streamline Health public. That year, revenue doubled over the previous year, but failed to meet expectations and the stock was pummeled.
Over the next several years, Patsy had to choose again and again between selling the company or saving his dream. Each time, he believed in the company’s unique mission, finally deciding to stop competing against the larger competion, and instead focus on how Streamline Health could differentiate itself from other companies. The strategy has worked, and the company has experienced double-digit growth.
How to reach: Streamline Health, (513) 794-7104 or www.streamlinehealth.com
That passion and determination led him to develop a process to improve the cardiology services provided to patients and to help hospitals to better serve patients and to realize a financial benefit.
For more than a decade, Joseph, founder, president and CEO of Upper Arlington-based AMC Registry Inc., has been developing and refining the Chest Pain Process Improvement Service (CPPIS). The service includes The Chest Pain Registry, the first registry to cover all acute coronary syndromes, as well as chest pain of any etiology.
CPPIS is an operational model for Chest Pain Centers, founded in Florida in 1995 when a for-profit health care network became interested in integrating 14 of its facilities clinically. The center incorporates process improvement for care related to acute coronary syndrome.
AMC has applied its chest pain initiative at more than 100 hospitals with more than 60,000 patients.
Joseph says that implementing CPPIS across the country will give more than 1 million patients having heart attacks, and millions more with undiagnosed chest pain each year, the opportunity for better care.
In addition, because strokes are the third-leading cause of death in American adults and the leading cause of long-term disability, AMC has tweaked its CPPIS method to gear it to the areas of stroke and hyperlipidemia.
In addition to his work at AMC, Joseph is a board-certified emergency department physician; chairman of the section of observational medicine - ACEP; former clinical coordinator of the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction at Riverside Hospital; and former chairman of the Riverside Hospital Emergency Department.
How to reach: AMC Registry, (614) 457-9190 or www.amcincius.com
Today, more than 40 years later, those principles still guide him as he has built the company into Ohio’s largest privately held, independent wealth management firm.
When he started his financial advisory company in the 1960s, he had just one client whom he worked with after his day job as a professor.
In 1970, he took a position at the University of Cincinnati and began to slowly attract new clients. His business grew via word of mouth, and in 1980, he moved Johnson Investment Counsel from his home into an office.
Despite the revenue potential, Johnson didn’t want to sell high-fee, low-return mutual funds, so he created his own low-fee funds. They didn’t make any money for the company, but did gain it more advisory work from satisfied clients. When he saw a client need for affordable trust alternatives, Johnson Trust was formed.
Johnson never set out to be the biggest, only the best. And he’s succeeded based on his personal standards, which have become Johnson Investment Counsel’s core values:
- The highest level of integrity, honesty and morality
- Extraordinary client service
- The pursuit of excellence
- Continuous improvement and innovation
- His employees’ relationships with God, their family, the community and each other.
Johnson has obviously succeeded, as he has developed a successful firm based on competence and integrity first, allowing growth and profit to follow naturally.
How to reach: Johnson Investment Counsel Inc., (800) 541-0170 or www.johnsoninv.com