Just as it seemed the 20-month legal battle between Crystal Mortgage CEO David Moore and the city of Amherst over alleged unpaid taxes (chronicled in the October issue of SBN) would end with a whimper, more gasoline was thrown on the fire.
Apparently, Moore autographed copies of the SBN article and dropped them in the mailboxes of city officials, a move that prompted Amherst Law Director Alan Anderson to file a cease-and-desist order against Moore in Lorain County Common Pleas Court claiming the prominent local businessman was harassing him. Moore, who has already blown $100,000 in his fight against the city and a comprehensive political campaign against Anderson specifically, classified the court filing as pre-election shenanigans.
If he was trying to stir up some re-election support, it didnt work. Anderson was defeated at the November polls by Democrat challenger Kenneth Stumphauzer.
Fussy about Mrs. Hargrove
Mike Hargrove may have been sacked as manager of the Cleveland Indians, but Fussy Cleaners isnt necessarily going to follow suit with his wife, Sharon. At least not right away.
For much of this year, Mrs. Hargrove has put her sassy West Texas twang to good use as a radio and print pitch person for the Akron-based chain, which has 18 locations in four Northeastern Ohio counties. And President John Baraona says hes made no decision yet on whether shell remain in the marketing mix for next year, now that her husband has been hired by the Baltimore Orioles.
This is long-term, institutional advertising, he says. She doesnt say, Come on in. And, he points out, Sharon and I never talk about baseball.
Even the small warming to e-commerce
According to a study by California-based Sage Software, 29 percent of small and mid-sized companies with Web sites are doing some form of e-commerce. The survey was based on responses from 200 companies with between 10 and 500 employees. One mild surprise: just 9 percent of respondents think the Web is an effective promotional tool for them.
NAWBO cancels Net
Who says business owners never tire of learning more about the Internet? The Cleveland chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners was due to convene a gathering of members to hash over the topic Sept. 28. But the session was canceled, apparently because almost no one but SBN called to RSVP.
You probably wont be surprised to learn that when they cash out or otherwise retire, entrepreneurs often head for sunnier climates than Cleveland. The two most recent defectors to the Left Coast are Dan and Kate Krause and local ad veteran Dan Fitzsimmons.
Dan and Kate headed back to her native California after the couple sold to a consolidator the Internet Service Provider ExchangeNet that they had started with his brother Mike.
Fitzsimmons, a fixture in the ad agency world for 30 years, recently moved to Los Angeles with his wife to better peddle his idea for a cable TV channel devoted exclusively to puppies, The Puppy Channel. In earlier days, he was known for, among other things, helping take the Council of Smaller Enterprises from an unknown organization to a major powerhouse, in no small part because of savvy leveraging of its $1 million annual ad budget.
YPOers have all the fun
The Young Presidents Organization likes to think of itself as an elite gathering of young corporate leaders. Its educational tracks tackle serious subjects such as estate planning and personal security, but its members also like to have a little fun.
Thats precisely what the local chapter offered members with a couple of marquee events this year. In one, members got a chance to scrub into and observe first-hand various surgeries at the Cleveland Clinic. They also took part in a drill mounted by the Cleveland Police SWAT team, in which members, outfitted in night-vision goggles and 9 mm paintballs, tested their wits against imaginary bad guys. What are they going to do for an encore?
Tapping into valuable databases
Its touted as supporting the research efforts of full-time state and federal judges. Cleveland-based Loislaw.com Inc. (formerly Law Office Information Systems, Inc.) provides no-cost access to its state and federal law libraries via the Internet. State judges can receive a no-cost subscription to the law library of their state; federal judges can receive Internet access to U.S. reports, their applicable circuit court product.
So wheres the money being made? Judges can upgrade their free subscriptions to a half-price discount and receive access to all of Loislaw.coms state and federal law libraries available on the Web. Thats a windfall for all, considering that estimates say Loislaw.coms databases contain more than 5.5 million documents of federal and state law, continuing education materials and other legal information. Talk about leveraging the power and value of information.
A new cook in the mix
Last month, SBN featured two local entrepreneurs offering to solve one of the most important question any busy executive faces: Whats for dinner? Well, clear the plate for a third player. Cleveland chef Tim Powers rolled out a new service for health-conscious executives on the go with a company named, aptly enough, Whats for Dinner? Personal Chef Service. Salivating yet? If so, sample his wares at (216) 371-3133.
Microsoft crack down
After sweeping through Cleveland skewering computer companies selling pirated software, Microsoft is urging consumers and resellers to become familiar with the warning signs that can help identify counterfeit or illegal software.
Unwary customers who get a seemingly fantastic deal on their new, nicely loaded computer often end up having been duped, says Janice Block, corporate attorney for Microsoft. She warns to look out for prices too good to be true or software marked with messages like Academic price or for distribution with a new PC only. Finally, make sure software is properly licensed and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Within the next five years, Microsoft expects to recoup $50 million in its software piracy crackdown, with half of that amount earmarked for donation to nonprofit organizations focusing on providing access to technology for disadvantaged communities. In 1998, Microsoft estimates software piracy caused losses to the U.S. economy totaling nearly $1 billion in taxes and more than 100,000 jobs.
A local buzz
Cleveland Today, a nonprofit organization dedicated to hyping all things Cleveland, and The Cleveland International press center, which assists foreign journalists in establishing contacts here, have jointly created a slick Web site www.clevelandtoday.org to help expand the reach of both groups. The Web site will also feature current and past issues of Dateline: Cleveland, a bimonthly magazine which reports on developments in Northeast Ohio and provides story pitches for foreign journalists considering giving Cleveland ink in their publications.
Coming to a checkout counter near you
The impulse buyer was never in more danger. NCR Corp. recently announced the creation of new software that allows for Web-based product promotion as customers are having their purchases tallied at the checkout.
Heres how it works: a small screen at the point of sale terminal rings up a customers purchases on one side. Meanwhile, product promotions, advertisements and event announcements are presented in a Web-based window on the other half of the screen.
There are enhancements to the system already in the works. Eventually, each purchase a customer makes will trigger a promotion for related or complementary merchandise, creating extra sales opportunities for the retailer while customers have their money or credit card in hand.
Cleveland State Universitys Advanced Manufacturing Center received a $190,000 grant from the SME Education Foundation to develop a Manufacturing Discovery Laboratory that will train teachers as manufacturing ambassadors and introduce middle-school students to career possibilities in manufacturing and engineering.
The laboratory will have 18 fully networked computers equipped with manufacturing design software, along with other equipment that integrates math, science, engineering and manufacturing concepts. Summer camp programs for seventh, eighth and ninth grade students are in place and the laboratory is expected to be fully operational by September 2000. Talk about molding a work force.
Even the best laid plans ...
After generating $5 million in capital in a little more than 90 days, Buckeye Community Bank executives anticipated fairly smooth sailing to their self-imposed Sept. 1 opening date. But never underestimate the power of Y2K and governmental red tape. Buckeye Community Bank President George Mayer (featured in the September issue of SBN) warned that making sure all of the banks vendors were Y2K compliant and waiting for state approval may take a little longer than expected. He was right. However, the bank did open its doors at 105 Sheffield Center in Lorain Oct. 18, just 48 days after its Sept. 1 goal.
A new e-commerce site for the grade school set? Chris Goodin and Jack Haas, Cleveland entrepreneurs, are banking on the concept of an interactive Web site for kids ages 3 to 12 www.readyeddiego.com where parents can purchase learning products only available online.
But what is any product that appeals to kids without a mascot? Enter Internet Eddie. Described by Haas as a big green lizard guy that can be a friend a role model and lead, Internet Eddie will be a childs new icon-of-the-week. A costumed Internet Eddie will be making the rounds at schools, libraries and hospitals to push the companys learning is fun theme.
In the early years, Internet Eddie is soft and safe, says Haas. In the middle years, he is more sophisticated and is developing his own personality complexities and later on, hes highly interactive. Haas failed to mention whether Eddie will ever explore his wild side as those all-so-familiar college years roll around. We guess not.
The month of December can take a toll on even the most well-intentioned attempts at customer service. If just the thought of the next three weeks has your blood pressure on the rise, help is available. The second edition of Customer Service For Dummies recently hit the shelves and offers tips for the holiday season. One of them is to refine your companys phone style during the crush of holiday business.
It is vital to answer the phone within three rings with a greeting such as Happy Holidays, XYZ Company, how may I help you? Also, if you need to put a customer on hold, ask permission and wait for a response. Just remember that over the phone, more than 80 percent of the message your customer receives is through the tone of your voice.
Need a little extra motivation before facing the throngs of holiday shoppers? Check out www.dummies.com.
Ameritech New Media strikes again
Northeast Ohio cable companies should be afraid, very afraid. After popping up to do battle in 11 local communities, Ameritech New Media the nations largest competitive cable company is introducing a new fiber optic service in Garfield Heights.
Boasting a razor sharp picture, 99.9 percent reliability, an interactive television listings guide and 24-hour customer-care line, Ameritech New Media may quickly catch the attention of other city leaders hoping to breath a little life into their communities dusty cable packages.
Not fading away
For anyone who still deludes themselves into believing the Linux operating system will be a passing fad, there are solid numbers showing its popularity is on the rise. In a recent
national survey by California-based RHIConsulting, 57 percent of chief information officers polled said they believe use of the Linux system will increase over the next three years.
Only three percent projected a decline. The survey polled 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees. As for Northeast Ohio, consultants are beginning to recommend it to their clients as well (see Novembers SBN).
Y2K silver bullet?
Still got some Y2K jitters at this late date? If you do, youre in serious trouble. But Advanced Programming Resources, Inc., a Dublin, Ohio, IT consulting firm, has a new product that promises to automate the tedious, manual process of gathering data regarding programs currently running on your companys system.
The Snooper identifies the existence of multiple versions of a program, indicating older, noncompliant versions that could lead to Y2K problems at the turn of the year. Everyones been searching for the Y2K silver bullet, says Barry Heagren, president of APR. Weve got the closest thing to it. Sound good? Get moving. Youve only got a few weeks left.
A lesson in self-promotion
A recent survey at Chicagos OHare and Dallas/Ft. Worth International airports reported 72 percent of business travelers were carrying at least one promotional product imprinted with a companys name, logo or message. Even more incredible was the fact that 77 percent of those polled said they used the promotional product once a day.
Pens and pencils topped the list of favorite promotional products, followed closely by clothing. But before you go rushing out to buy those fleece pullovers bearing your companys logo, consider the fact that the Promotional Products Association International conducted the survey.
Do-it-yourself business valuations
You want to know the value of your business, but dont want to hire a high-priced business consultant to do the work. For better or worse, companies are cropping up with products that allow entrepreneurs to determine a value for their business in the comfort of their own homes. There is Colorado-based Innovative Professional Software Inc., which offers a program to value your business for a mere $200. Meanwhile, VALUware is for sale at www.bizbookssoftware.com for $330. The only lingering question seems to be whether any of these means of business valuation would hold water with the IRS.
Food to go
Forgetting to eat lunch in the midst of a busy, deadline-laden day isnt uncommon among time-strapped execs, so the results of a study by the National Restaurant Association asking Whats for lunch? should come as no surprise.
The top three answers were fruit, hamburgers and wraps a list made up of compressed lunches. That suggests a trend toward hand-held food, which allows consumers (read: busy execs) to fit more work into each day. It also explains the finding that four out of 10 people dont take a real lunch break, choosing instead to eat at their desks or on the run between meetings.
Further substantiating the findings, this brief was written between forksful of salad at the authors desk.
Lamson & Sessions on the defense
A U.S. District Court judge in Illinois last month denied Cleveland-based Lamson & Sessions request to set aside a jurys decision to award Illinois-based Intermatic $12.5 million in damages in resolution of a patent infringement case. The court also ordered Lamson & Sessions to pay $1.5 million in prejudgment interest to Intermatic. The ruling came two months after a jurys ruling that Lamson & Sessions infringed on Intermatics patent for an outdoor electrical outlet cover.
Passing the bell to generation three
Jess A. Bell Jr., grandson of founder Jesse G. Bell, has been named chairman and CEO of Bonne Bell Inc., a Lakewood-based cosmetics and beauty aids manufacturer. Bell takes over from his father, Jess A. Bell, 74, who assumes the post of vice chairman of the 72-year old company.
We are now officially in the third generation, says Bell, whose innovative use of senior workers was recently profiled in SBN. Very few private family businesses make it to the third generation.
Another chunk of medal for the collection
Clevelands youngest microbrewery, Western Reserve Brewing, added another national medal to its quickly growing collection a silver at the Great American Beer Festival in the category of Belgian & French Style Specialty Ales for its Cloud Nine beer.
More than 400 breweries from around the nation competed in the festival. The beer joins other Western Reserve winners American Wheat Beer, Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale and the seasonal Lake Effect Winter Ale.