Newsclips Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

One step closer to a billion

ProForma management knows only one direction to lead the business — up. To aid the journey, the Cleveland-based franchiser of graphic communications distributorships in May inked a $25 million working capital deal with Firstar to fund an ongoing expansion. With more than 400 franchises, and revenues projected at $175 million for 1999, the package gives ProForma access to enough money to pursue its goals of 1,000 distributors and $1 billion in sales by 2001.


Do they get a medal?

It’s unlikely that Cleveland will ever host the Olympics, but that doesn’t stop Cleveland-based companies from going after a piece of the financial pie which surrounds the event. The most recent beneficiary is Colortone Audio Visual Staging and Rentals Inc., which last month staged the unveiling of the 2001 Winter Olympics mascot in Salt Lake City, Utah. Colortone provided sound, lighting and video support for the event.


Walking for a cause

Achievement Centers for Children will host “A Most Excellent Run” Sunday, June 27, at Horseshoe Lake Park in Shaker Heights. The annual event raises money for Camp Cheerful, a summer overnight camp for children and adults with special needs. The run has several divisions, including 5k and 10k runs, a 10k wheelchair race and a 5k fun walk. For more information, call (216) 795-7100.


An alternate to the stress ball

Do your employees deal with irate customers effectively and professionally? If they don’t, you may consider implementing these three tips in your “how-to” manual, says best-selling customer service author Stephen Coscia:

  • Concentrate on what to do, not on what is happening. This motivates the thinking process, which is usually the first thing to go under stress.

  • Take responsibility for your behavior and feelings. Realize that the irate customer’s behavior isn’t going to change, so change your own.

  • Learn to respond, not react. Responding creates rational thought — instead of retaliation — and allows you to consider the best options and execute an effective plan. Let the customer vent, then propose a solution.


Lobbying for the small guy

Robert G. Rosenbaum, former editor of SBN, was named the 1999 Media Advocate of the Year for the Midwest Region by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Rosenbaum was selected for increasing public understanding of the importance of small business contributions to the economy.


We’re not Silicon Valley, but ...

Case Western Reserve University was ranked the most wired campus among the nation’s colleges and universities, according to Yahoo Internet Life magazine. Ninety percent of CWRU’s public computers are available around the clock, and every residence hall is wired. Students are guaranteed 25 megabytes of Web space retain free e-mail access for life after graduation.

Approximately 400 undergraduate courses — 40 percent of all offered — incorporate network-based activities. CWRUnet is the first all-fiber-optic computer network on any campus. More than 6,000 miles of fiber optic cable have been installed on campus. Ninety-five percent of undergraduates own a computer.


Prepaying to fix problems

Westlake-based F1 Ltd. rolled out a new prepaid resource card — Help in a Flash. The card, available in five or 10 incident increments, is aimed at small to mid-sized businesses which don’t have large IT departments to solve immediate technology problems.

The cards cost $125 for five incidents and $200 for 10. Call (800) F1-4help for more information.


When the thank you card falls short

Worried about losing your employees to a competitor? Take a page out of Fifth Third Bank’s book. The Cincinnati-based bank builds loyalty by awarding stock to its long-term employees. In May, Fifth Third rewarded 3,000 full- and part-time employees with three or more years of service with between 10 and 60 shares of Fifth Third common stock, valued at a total of $6.7 million. More than 6,500 employees now own stock in the bank.


These are the good old days

It’s been a good year for Edward Howard & Co. Among the Cleveland-based public relations firm’s recent achievements, it was named the best-managed mid-sized firm in the country by Inside PR.In an era in which public relations firms have to be innovative just to keep existing clients, Edward Howard and Co. has brought on board 12 new high profile clients, including BridgeStreet Accommodations and GE Lighting.


Swipe here

Keeping in line with changes in the service industry, Northeast Ohio’s Mail Boxes Etc. recently added self-service computer workstations to its 50 regional stores. While the concept is not new, MBE’s approach is. The store allows consumers to swipe their credit cards at the machines, rather than stand in line for a store-issued card or to pay a clerk.

How’s that for better use of resources?


The cost of war

Just when you thought your company’s work force couldn’t get any tighter, along comes the recent crisis in Kosovo. As reservists are called up to serve, employers may face situations they haven’t seen since the beginning of the decade — questions about military leave and pay.

The Employers Resource Council recently polled 235 Northeast Ohio companies about military leave policies for their employees. Here is some of what they found:

  • Less than 15 percent of employees receive full pay from their employers while on military leave for summer training;

  • Less than 11 percent of employers pay full pay to National Guard Reservists called to active duty;

  • Up to 63 percent pay two weeks for military leave pay.

There are no laws that require employers to continue an employee’s salary while they are on military leave. That’s because military reservists receive pay from the U.S. government while on duty or in training. But employers are required to offer COBRA for up to 18 months.


Can transporters be that far behind?

The speed of business is accelerating. Your customers want their products quicker, and in response, you want your suppliers to provide materials quicker. So chalk one up for the middlemen for bridging that gap.

Yellow Freight System Inc. in May sped up its transit times from three days to two for shipments from Cleveland to nearly 6,000 destinations in the eastern U.S. The move into high gear comes as part of the company’s Operation EXCELeration, which Yellow introduced earlier this year in its most active regions — Cleveland-based shippers annually move more than 606 million tons of goods via Yellow.


So that’s what that smell was

Talk about bad air. A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund named Ford Motor Co.’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake as one of the 15 worst practitioners of pollution prevention among auto facilities in the nation.

The study, available at EDF’s Web site (www.edf.org), tracked per-vehicle toxic chemical releases and transfers, toxic waste production and smog-forming volatile organic compound releases at the 54 auto assembly plants in the U.S. The Avon Lake plant generated 2.5 million pounds of toxic waste in 1996 (the year the study followed) — nearly 21 pounds for every car produced. That was nearly five times the pollution generated per car by the average high-ranking facility.


And you think your Web site is busy?

Sure, everybody’s got to make money. That’s what business is all about. But with technology that moves at breakneck speed, s upport for your computer systems alone can cost your business tens of thousands of dollars every year.

Enter a new Web site — www.TechPointer.com. It may slash that budget line to a more workable figure. TechPointer.com offers to solve all computer and Internet-related problems within four hours, seven days a week, for free.

The catch? So far, there doesn’t appear to be one. The only caveat is that your answers become part of the site’s massive database, so techs can refer to them to solve other visitors’ problems.


Looking for disadvantaged businesses

Michelle Spain, director of the Center for Small Business Assistance and Education, has been selected as one of 62 private certifiers of Small Disadvantaged Business. Certifying a business as an SDB gives it equitability when it bids for federal contracts.

Spain is also the executive director and founder of the Business Assistance Program. With the certification center designation, Spain will screen SDB applications and determine if they meet the requirements to become disadvantaged businesses. Certification is good for three years.

Nationally, the goal is to certify 25,000 businesses. The original deadline, June 30, has been extended. For those interested in finding out more about SDB certification, call the CSBAE at (216) 283-5208.


The future work force

What will your future office look like? The Bureau of Labor Statistics put together projections and found:

  • 39 percent of workers will be over age 45, and 15 percent over 55.

  • The median age of the U.S. worker will be 41, up from 38 in 1994.

  • Women will make up about 47 percent of the work force.

  • The nation’s work force will rise to nearly 149 million people, an 11 percent increase since 1966.

  • Hispanic-, Asian- and African-Americans will comprise nearly 30 percent of the work force.


Who says golf’s not a sport?

The old swing a little rusty? Worried about doing business on the links? Local fitness guru Francesca Gern has created an eight-class course designed to help golfers improve strength, flexibility and range of motion for the swing. Gern is the creator of Body Sculpting by Exterior Designs Inc. and was recognized as one of Cleveland’s Top 10 Women Business Owners by the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. For more information about the program, sponsored by Cobra Golf, call (330) 528-FLEX or (800) 659-FLEX.


Space to spare

Downsizing has become part of the corporate culture. And while your staff may be leaner, your office space is wasted. A new Web site may have the answer. Offices2share.com is a national matching service for companies looking to sublease part of their office space and start-ups looking for affordable professional space. There is a fee for listing space. For more information, visit www.offices2share.com.


Making it easier

It seems like every time business owners turn around, the government slaps another restriction or regulation on their operations. But this time it may have actually helped. Ohio House Bill 695 enables small, privately held companies to more easily make stock offerings available to accredited investors. Companies seeking up to $1 million in equity capital can fill out a preliminary disclosure form on ACE-Net, an Internet-based service linking institutional and individual investors with small businesses seeking up to $5 million in equity financing. Ace-Net was created by the U.S. Small Business Administration.


E-mail is king

An RHI Management Resources survey found that executives mostly use the Internet to send e-mail. Of 1,400 CFOs responding, 36 percent said they used the Internet for e-mail. Other uses included conducting research, 24 percent; entertainment, 9 percent; investing and stock analysis, 8 percent; accessing daily news reports, 8 percent; other, 2 percent. Six percent do not access the Internet and 7 percent don’t know or didn’t answer.


It’s still stealing

Admit it. The latest version of Microsoft Word on your home computer was a work version that you “just borrowed” to do some work at home. Well, the software industry doesn’t take kindly to piracy and has begun to fight back by showing the economic impact it’s had on our state. According to figures released by Microsoft Corp.’s Cleveland office, software piracy has caused the loss of 6,100 jobs in the state. That translates into $182 million in lost wages and salaries. Add in the lost tax revenues and retail sales and the figure jumps to $400 million.


Practice what you preach

CEC Consultants Inc., an engineering and consulting firm specializing in innovative energy/utility cost cutting for industrial and commercial businesses, was honored as the Energy Star Buildings Ally of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


How do you compare?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released employment and wage data from the 1997 Occupational Employment Statistics Survey. Estimates of employment and average, median and mid-range wages for 695 occupations are available for the state on the BLS/OES Web site. For information organized by OES occupational code go to stats.bls.gov/oeshome.htm. For occupations organized alphabetically, go to lmi.state.oh.us/oes/oes.htm.


It’s not rocket science. Or is it?

Tired of holding your company meetings in stuffy old banquet rooms? Why not rent the Great Lakes Science Center and treat your employees to something enjoyable as well as educational? The center has lowered its prices and offers a variety of packages for your meeting needs. Rent out the entire museum (including the Omnimax Theater), a floor, or just one of the many meeting spaces. For more information, contact the special events department at (216) 696-4941. The only problem: keeping your employees’ attention when they’d rather be playing with the exhibits.


Y2K OK

Your IT consultant just greeted you with some bad news. He can make you Y2K ready, but it’s going to cost you more than you thought. Not to worry. The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced a Y2K loan guaranty program designed to enable small businesses to purchase the systems, software, equipment and services necessary to become Y2K compliant. It will also assist firms that suffer economic injury as a result of the millennium bug. For more information about the program, visit the SBA Web site at www.sba.gov/y2k or call (800) U-ASK-SBA.


What’s for lunch?

From the “now-we’ve-seen-everything” department: A new Web site answers the classic lunch-time question and argument amongst coworkers: “Where should we go eat?” Well, Todd Kloots of Cleveland, with Todd Hausman and Jeff Gilmore of Cincinnati, have created Randomlunch.com, a Web site that provides a randomly selected lunch ideas for your city.