In brief Featured

10:07am EDT July 22, 2002

One of the first rules of marketing is to send accurate information to the media. At least, it should be if you want to stay in business.

Keeping that in mind, everybody loves to get promotional items in the mail—especially journalist grunts. So, imagine the warm welcome that journalists nationwide gave to a tin of Webfuel peppermints that arrived the other day.

Webfuel’s concept is a sharp one—a computer mouse-shaped tin of “cool mints” with a list of “cool Web sites” to visit. A visit to their own Web site describes the company’s goal to be providing a new list of prescreened sites with each tin of peppermints.

There’s only one problem with this idea: Web sites come and go as often as ideas. Of the seven Web sites offered in the first tin, two of them no longer existed as advertised. One changed its URL. The other left no forwarding address.

At least Webfuel’s own site— www.webfuel.com—hasn’t changed residences.


A success guru’s awkward moment

Cleveland-based marketing executive George Fraser has made a pretty good career out of selling the notion that scratch-and-hustle, when coupled with skilled networking, leads to success.

His Success Guides to minority businesspeople were rolled out in several other cities after he began the concept in Cleveland. His face later made the cover of Black Enterprise magazine, and his insights have blanketed radio and television airwaves

When the publisher of his most recent book, Success Runs in Our Race, couldn’t afford an author tour, Fraser turned to eight Fortune 500 companies—including Ford, Wal-Mart, Continental Airlines and Procter & Gamble—to underwrite his 51-city “world networking tour,” which took him to major U.S. cities and five other countries.

But the articulate Fraser was at a loss for words when he recently appeared on cable TV’s Black Entertainment network to talk about capital formation in the minority population. A viewer, who called to say he was considering filing for bankruptcy, asked Fraser if that would be the right thing to do. The camera turned to the success guru, who could be seen stammering, searching for an answer. A fellow guest saved the day by quickly stepping in with a reply.

The reason for the hesitation? It might have had to do with the fact that Fraser was recently forced to file for bankruptcy himself.


The CEO as rock star

It’s official: Successful CEOs have replaced rock legends as the true heroes among the college-aged set. At least that’s how it looked at a recent appearance of Invacare CEO Mal Mixon before a packed house at John Carroll University’s business school. More than 300 people, mostly students, hung on his every word, scribbling notes and vying to ask questions afterward. Hardly a single member of the audience left early, despite the fact that the session was in the middle of dinner hour, a revered oasis on many college campuses.

For his part, Mixon was at his quietly upbeat best. He boasted about how quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve uses a motorized Invacare wheelchair —“these things don’t really look like wheelchairs anymore; they look like pretty hot sports cars”— and described how the company has reduced its distribution centers from 35 to five. He added that Invacare expects to go through some downsizing in its European staff, which now numbers about 1,000.

Finally, the frugal Mixon, who began his career 20 years ago with the then-tiny Lorain company with a personal $10,000 investment, noted that he planned to break a billion dollars in annual revenues while still having no personal secretary.


Overheard

“Transactions come to you serendipitously, no matter how systematically you try to get into the deal club. And quite often it will come from a source you didn’t expect.”

—Kevin Shaw, president of Beachwood-based NCS Health Care, which has become a $500-million company by acquiring and consolidating home health-care companies in the last decade.


Ups and Downs

Downs to FirstEnergy for this summer’s job cuts—hard to see linesmen as an unnecessary expense. Pray for nice weather.

Downs to NBA owners for locking out players. A case of billionaires fighting millionaires for a few peanuts.

Downs to the GM/UAW dispute over outsourcing work. GM wanted to trim jobs and improve efficiency. Read: profits. The UAW wanted to protect jobs. Read: no changes. But the strike ate GM profits, which will ultimately lead to job cuts and higher car prices.

Ups to the Great Lakes Science Center’s Science and Technology Education Partnership. Nineteen corporate sponsors donated $300,000 to underwrite more than 240,000 students’ educational visits to study science. Someone want to sponsor readin’, writing an’ ‘rithmetic?

Downs to Sunbeam Corp., which bought Signature Brands because it needed help, which bought Mr. Coffee, because it needed help. Now who’s going to help Sunbeam? Joe DiMaggio?