Newsclips Featured

8:00pm EDT July 21, 2002

The new PR

Forget company Web sites and registering key words with search engines — the popularity of the Internet allows businesses to make new gains in getting their names noticed online. Ace Hardware last year released information on preparing a home for winter weather that appeared in more than 100 newspapers with a combined circulation of 1.2 million. The company did it by submitting the information to the Article Resource Association Web site — www.aracopy.com. — a service that caters to newspaper and magazine editors by posting news articles with photos and graphics that can be downloaded.

From party favors to profits Can a golf shirt and a hand exerciser really motivate a sales force?

The answer was an overwhelming yes for a pharmaceutical firm that launched a “Get Pumped” campaign to motivate its staff. Each member was given a Power Performance Pack that contained the golf shirt and exerciser. The program helped produce a 60 percent sales increase of the promoted product.

Meanwhile, Geico Direct Auto Insurance launched a “Mission Possible” campaign complete with cardboard briefcases, cellular-phone shaped water bottles and candy-filled bombs that resulted in a 43 percent sales increase over the same period the previous year.

The Texas-based Promotional Products Association International urges companies take notice and develop their own plan to motivate sales people. It cautions employers to set a concise goal, create a program that reflects employees’ tastes and keep an eye on the bottom line.

 

 

On the other hand Alexander Haim says it’s not about handing out pens, caps and T-shirts, it’s about making your employees feel good enough to be motivated. Haim, who is pushing his new book “Motivating & Rewarding Employees: New and Better Ways to Inspire Your People,” says promotional campaigns that try to excite workers by handing out trinkets are hogwash. Instead, he says management is 90 percent emotional skill and managers have to make their employees feel good to motivate them. That means focusing on their greatest strengths, making them feel optimistic and exuding a belief they can solve any problem and accomplish their goals. For more information about the book, visit www.adamsonline.com.

 

 

Decisions, decisions

Giving employees a stake in company decisions has its problems, most notably the creation of employees who believe they should be consulted at every turn. But a new book promises to educate leaders of businesses both big and small how to avoid this trap and develop one of the most important and frequently neglected leadership skills in the business world — decision making.

Mary Gelinas and Roger James, the authors of “Collaborative Change: Improving Organizational Performance,” assert good decision makers are created rather than born, and provide tips on how to hone a variety of decision-making styles. The authors emphasize that not only is the quality of the decision critical, but also the fact that everyone in the organization understands the process through which it was made. For more information, go to www.josseybass.com.

 

Solving the office supply blues

Never be caught low on paper clips or file folders ever again. Staples.com. is touting a new service that takes the hassle out of ordering office equipment by allowing business owners to create their own online “personal store” in less than five minutes. When pens and paper clips start running low, customers go to the Web site, access their account and submit their ready-made list to restock the shelves.

Staples.Com is hoping it can edge out its online competitors by gearing the service toward small business owners who don’t have time to waste running out to the store and very often don’t have office managers to restock supplies. However, they’re still fighting one obstacle that will be tough to overcome — delivery time.

 

 

Cyberlaw

In a recent nationwide survey, 85 percent of attorneys polled said their firm has a Web site. That is nearly double the 47 percent that reported an Internet presence just two years ago. More than 200 attorneys among the nation’s 1,200 largest law firms were polled by the Affiliates, a staffing service specializing in project attorneys and legal support personnel. That leaves us wondering just one thing — do the sites actually generate clients?

 

 

Optical opportunities

Spectera Inc., a national managed vision care company, has opened eight stores in Cleveland and Akron during the past month. The Baltimore company’s dip into the Northeast Ohio market was spurred by a need to serve 200,000 members of Kaiser Permanente of Ohio and 27,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The new stores will create 50 full-time jobs.

 

 

Roughing it with style

Premier Parks Inc., the regional theme park company that owns Geauga Lake Amusement Park, has broadened its horizons. The company purchased the 146-room Aurora Woodlands Hotel and renamed it Lodge on the Lake.

The lodge is decorated to resemble a rustic wilderness lodge, but guests need not be worried about primitive accommodations. The hotel will offer Internet access from each room and free shuttle service to Geauga Lake and Sea World. Exclusive rooms designed to accommodate a family of six to eight have been created, offering queen-size beds, a refreshment center and sitting parlor. The Woodlands Bar and Grille will be located in the hotel lobby, and new glass enclosed exterior entrances are being built.

The renovation bill for all this rustic charm? A hefty $2 million. And we wonder why the price of amusement park admission keeps going up.

 

 

Public records meet the information age

The traditional slow search for public records may be on the brink of extinction. New software developed by a Washington company allows lawyers, bankers and leasing managers to escape public records purgatory and search for public business documents from their desktop computer. The software allows clients to search for Uniform Commercial Code filings or federal tax liens through Online Data Searches’ up-to-date databases. The company database contains documents filed throughout the West, but will eventually include all 50 states. For more information, visit www.onlineucc.com.

 

Good work doesn’t speak for itself

A healthy dose of self-promotion is more effective than quiet competence, according to two behavioral scientists. In a new book, George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson say some of the best sales people, highest paid professors and most powerful executives did not attain their positions by being the most competent, but rather through purposeful self-promotion. “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales,” was written after 25 years of researching what makes people successful.

Dudley and Goodson describe a fear of self-promotion that manifests itself into a common phenomenon they term “call reluctance,” which limits sales people from achieving their full career potential. They offer practical exercises and techniques to help people escape these self-limiting patterns. For more information, visit www.call-reluctance.com.

 

Second choices

One in five chief information officers say they would be busy tracing budgets and capital expenditures if they hadn’t opted for a career in technology, according to a recent survey. Twenty-one percent of those questioned say they would have pursued accounting and finance; 15 percent say teaching would have been a secondary career choice. Engineering finished third with 11 percent, medicine snared 9 percent and business administration, 8 percent. Entertainment, law and marketing each received 5 percent, while scientific research finished last with 4 percent.

The survey was developed by RHI consulting, a specialized consulting firm that provides information technology professionals on a project basis. An independent research firm surveyed 1,400 CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees.

 

 

Just say Yahoo!

Although their salary and bonuses may pale in comparison to top-tier pay in traditional corporate America, executives of Internet-related enterprises are walking away with a larger share of stock options than service and industrial companies, according to a study by William M. Mercer Inc.

The analysis, based on public information released between 1996 and 1999 by 32 publicly traded Internet-related companies, found that after going public, the companies had a median of 15.7 percent of their total common shares set aside for stock-based competition, including stock options and restricted stock grants. In comparison, 350 large service and industrial companies reserved median shares of around 10.7 percent.

However, the study showed the Internet companies had a median of 3.7 percent of those stocks left for future incentive grants, while the service and industry companies had around 5.3 percent still available. Meanwhile, the median salary for Internet CEOs was around $200,000, while that of all other Internet executives is $133,563. The median annual bonus among the latter executives was $11,953.

 

 

401(k) 101

Employers’ efforts to educate their workers about 401(k) plans have spurred increased contributions and more aggressive investment decisions. According to a study by Buck Consultants Inc., the leading worldwide human resources consulting firm, 60 percent of those surveyed with education programs reported higher worker contributions as a result of education initiatives. The survey found that 58 percent with education programs reported employees were making less conservative investment decisions. About nine out of 10 employers have taken steps to teach their work force about savings and retirement principles.

The nationwide survey, based on responses from 646 employers with 401(k) plans, found that 28 percent are considering methods to automatically enroll new workers as a way to boost participation, while 7 percent already do so. Meanwhile, 77 percent of workers are enrolled in 401(k) plans, a level that has remained stable the past six years.

 

 

Local firms honored

Five Cleveland-area firms on the cutting edge of quality service, entrepreneurship and other outstanding business practices were recently honored at the Third Annual Business Leadership Awards, sponsored by Cleveland State University and the Rotary Club.

Ohio Savings Bank received the Training and Development Leadership award because of the company’s progressive corporate culture and unique philosophies. The company’s training and development department forged strategic partnerships with all internal clients, developed a Positive Change Committee and encouraged a variety of learning opportunities for employees, from tuition reimbursement to seminars and conferences.

Cleveland Plastics Firm of Elyria was honored with the Quality Leadership award for its innovation in putting customer’s needs first. Each customer is assigned an account manager who documents the customer’s needs with an extensive and comprehensive checklist that is used to improve the product. The company attained a record level of sales in March 1999, while improving first-time quality levels to 99 percent.

Ronald Cohen, of Cohen & Company, a Cleveland firm devoted to advising family-owned and closely held businesses, received the Entrepreneurial Leadership award. The firm ranks among the top 75 accounting firms in the U.S. Cohen was honored for his role as a long time advocate of small businesses through legislative change, particularly in the areas of taxation and capital formation.

Niagara Custombilt Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland was honored for Global Business Leadership. The company has become the world’s foremost builder of custom industrial washing machines, which clean any size or shape of stampings, castings, machine parts or other industrial products. Niagara exports its products to more than 40 countries.

Deliotte & Touche LLP of Cleveland received the Community Service Leadership award for supporting many

local organizations through monetary gifts and the time and effort of its employees. The firm has targeted four major organizations for annual support: Beach Brook, a facility that counsels abused children; Junior Achievement; Riverside Elementary School; and the United Way Services. Last year, United Way benefited from a 48 percent increase in employee contributions, bringing the firm’s yearly total to $250,635.

 

Luckily, the batteries were charged

PC Guru president Jonathan Husni has seen a lot of strange things since he founded the Beachwood-based computer systems integrator 11 years ago. But what happened during a recent systems upgrade at Harry London Candies tops everything.

Husni explains that PC Guru installers were adding five new servers to help support Harry London’s new software system one Thursday in April when a nearby transformer blew at about 1 p.m., knocking out power in the company’s offices.

Because the server room had no windows, the installers suddenly found themselves standing in complete darkness. Under normal circumstances, Husni could have sent them home and had them return once power was restored. But, he had made a commitment to Harry London president Peter Young that the work would be completed before the end of the day so that employees could resume business as usual Friday morning.

So, taking a page from the Boy Scouts of America manual, out came the flashlights.

For the next seven hours, PC Guru installers toiled by flashlight until 8 p.m., when generators were finally brought in. Power was restored around midnight, and the installers stayed well past 1 a.m. to finish the final pieces of the upgrade.

When Harry London employees returned to work the following day, the upgrades were online and it was business as usual. Husni must be a fan of the stage because he’s subscribed to its one simple rule — the show must go on.

 

 

A little Java with those beans?

Flashline.com is making waves again. The online software components marketplace recently added a new service to its growing menu of custom-written drop-in software products. Software developers can choose from a collection of commercial quality JavaBeans components written exclusively for JavaServer pages. The offerings are among the first commercial components available for JavaServer applications on the Internet.

SBN featured Flashline founder and President Charles Stack in its April issue. At the time, Stack said Flashline would emerge as one of the premier sites on the Internet for software components. The new service adds another notch in Flashline’s belt on its way toward reaching Stack’s goal.

 

 

Publicizing PR

In yet another effort to help its members get the word out, the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has established a Web site — www.prsacleveland.org.

A year in the making, the PRSA site is better late than never. Graphically pleasing and designed by Vantage One Communications, it offers visitors a list of upcoming programs, membership information and job listings, among other benefits. Could broadcast faxes generated by the site be far behind?

 

 

Projecting polymers

Good news for Northeast Ohio polymer companies — demand for reinforced plastics is expected to increase 3.3 percent to more than four billion pounds in the year 2003, valued at $5.6 billion. The projections are based on a study from the Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm.

So why is this good news for companies such as Geon? Because the projected increases will require 2.8 billion pounds of resin, which in turn could lead to increased orders for regional polymer firms.

 

 

Anti-conventional wisdom

Few products on the market are patented. Conversely, few patented products ever are sold. So while it seems to go against everything you’ve been taught in business school about protecting your inventions and ideas from competitors, Dr. Vernon Brabham, a retired optometrist and inventor, suggests taking ideas directly to market.

That unconventional idea is just one Brabham espouses to up-and-coming inventors on his Web site — www.bizine/invent.com.

Here are a few others:

 

 

  • Don’t let invention brokers scam you. The FTC says the vast majority are either ineffective or fraudulent.

     

  • Find out if someone is already producing your idea. You may end up being the one infringing on an existing patent.

     

  • Learn how to figure the cost of your product before you start. Otherwise, you could lose money in the venture.

     

  • The idea is only 5 percent of the total process. Marketing is the other 95 percent.

     

  • Above all, don’t be afraid of new ideas. Dare to dream.

     

     

    It’s time to upgrade

    So you’ve refused to upgrade. Your TRS-80 with the cassette tape drive still works fine. Sure it’s a little slow, but think how much money you’ve saved over the years. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the personal computer, Dell Computer Corp. has launched a “Search for the Oldest PC” still in use at a small business. If you win, you’ll earn your company $15,000 in new Dell computer equipment. You can enter the search by calling (877) 572-DELL or visiting the Web site at www.dell.com, that is, if you have an Internet connection.

     

     

     

    The fairer business?

    Some quick facts about women-owned business from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Association of Women Business Owners:

     

     

    • In 1999, women-owned businesses numbered over 9.1 million, accounting for more than one-third of all businesses. They generated $3.6 trillion in revenue and employed 27.5 million workers. For Ohio, that works out to 352,000 firms, 1,124,300 employees and $12.07 billion in sales.

       

       

    • The top growth for women-owned businesses in the U.S. between 1987 and 1996 were in construction, wholesale trade, transportation, agribusiness and manufacturing.

       

       

    • Employment at U.S. women-owned firms with 100 or more employees has expanded six times faster than that at all firms in the economy.

       

       

    • Access to capital has improved. Since 1982, use of credit cards has plummeted from 52 percent to 23 percent and business earnings have doubled.

       

       

    • The number of firms owned by minority women has increased. By 1992, there were more than 275,000 African-American, nearly 250,000 Hispanic and more than 200,000 Asian women-owned firms.

     

     

    The honors keep coming

    City Visitor Publications President & CEO Rocco DiLillo has been invited to Palm Springs, Fla., to speak to CEOs from around the country at the Inc. magazine CEO Symposium. The event gives attendees the opportunity to discuss leadership strategies with other top executives. DiLillo is a former winner of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award and one of this year’s judges.

     

     

     

    Relaxing the rules a bit

    The Internal Revenue Service is giving a break to smaller companies that still have not complied with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System by extending the waiver on penalties from July 1 until the end of 1999. A business qualifies for the break if its payroll and income taxes were $200,000 or less during 1998.

    However, the 10 percent penalty will still start July 1 for businesses that paid taxes totaling $200,000 or more last year. The IRS says it will also give a one-time warning notice to businesses that should be complying with EFTPS as of June 30, 1999.

    Beginning January 2000, no company that pays federal taxes of less than $200,000 a year will be required to use EFTPS, while those that have taxes totaling $200,000 or more for the first time during 1999 will have to begin electronic transfer in the second succeeding calendar year.

     

     

    So that’s why

    The next way the Internet is going to make our lives easier is e-commerce. That comes as no surprise; the experts have been admonishing us to get on board for some time now. But why? RHI Management Resources asked 1,400 CFOs from around the country the following question: “What is the greatest benefit to be derived from offering e-commerce in your business over the next five years?” Here are the top four responses:

     

     

    • A means of reaching a broader range of prospective clients — 37 percent

       

       

    • A value-added benefit to existing customers — 21 percent

       

       

    • Reduced operational costs — 17 percent

       

       

    • Faster service/product delivery — 13 percent

     

     

     

    To the Great White North

    Marilou Myrick, president and CEO of ProResource Inc. was selected as one of 150 U.S. women business owners to represent the United States at the Canada /U.S. Businesswomen’s Trade Summit ’99 in Toronto. She was one of four women representatives from Ohio to attend the first ever trade mission of its kind.

     

    EEOC’s settle-not-sue policy spreading

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Cleveland district office rightly takes pride in the success of its alternative dispute resolution program, in which warring parties can ask the EEOC to mediate disputes rather than pursue costly administrative cases. Now, the office, which oversees cases throughout Ohio, is taking its program on the road. Earlier this year, it held an ADR kickoff in Columbus. Says ADR coordinator Loretta Feller, “We’re mediating great guns.”

     

     

    Careful with those live demos

    Cleveland attorney Jim Troxell, with the firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, has developed a reputation as one of the area’s leading authorities on Internet law. But even he gets an unpleasant surprise from the technology now and again. Recently, he was leading a client through a live demo of various Web sites when he accidentally called up a porn site. “We have a fast connection, and it was up like that,” he says.

     

     

    A new innovation tax

    Harvard Business School professor Josh Lerner recently told a U.S. Commerce Department conference on the digital economy that as a number of patent protections have been installed in the U.S. patent system over the last 15 years, smaller companies are increasingly being hit with patent-infringement suits by larger players. That has “created a substantial ‘innovation tax’ that afflicts some of America’s most important and creative small firms,” he said.

     

     

    Bean counters storm the Web

    As their business continues to fundamentally shift, accounting firms are becoming endlessly creative in cooking up promising new revenue streams. One of the more creative recent entrants might be the CPA WebTrust seal, an attempt to capitalize on the exploding e-commerce sector. The accounting industry has commissioned surveys that purport to show potential customers will be 46 percent more likely to buy from a site carrying such a seal of approval, which denotes that a qualified CPA has quarterly monitored the integrity of the site’s processes and transactions.