Deborah Garofalo

Friday, 22 April 2005 11:17

Down on the farm

There's a tale that circulates around Eureka! Ranch about Doug Hall cutting the tie off of an executive from one of the nation's largest beer producers.

Hall is the founder and CEO of Eureka! Ranch, an 80-acre "farm" that grows ideas and harvests innovation for some of the America's top companies. Whether the story is fact or fiction, it represents Hall well -- he's a nonconformist who is unimpressed with the price of a tie or the size of an organization.

Hall's inventiveness and rebellious nature have driven Eureka! Ranch's success over the past 18 years. And while you may not recognize his name, you know his work -- Hall's patented scientific system for generating ideas, innovation and marketing has been the genesis for the development of thousands of products and services for clients including PepsiCo., AT&T and Frito-Lay.

With rates starting at $15,000 for one, two and three-day workshops, Hall and his team of innovation gurus boast an almost unheard of 88 percent customer repeat rate. In a nutshell, Hall's process of inspiring and developing business-building ideas that are more effective and measurably less risky works.

A chemical engineer by education and an alumnus of Procter & Gamble, where he was master marketing inventor, Hall is in the business of fostering creativity. Suits are forbidden at Eureka! Even Hall's tax attorneys have to shed the formal wear when they visit.

What started as a creative rebellion against the stifling corporate red tape that can suck the life out of even the most enthusiastic executive has become a revolutionary movement, attracting followers across the globe. That demand resulted in Hall opening an Oxford, England, location to serve his European clients.

For a man who is unimpressed with corporate America's constraints, Hall has created and nurtured a rather large business empire. The difference between him and Corporate America, he says, is that he created a system that's grown by fostering the creativity of a few rather than expanding by adding employees.

Smart Business caught up with Hall after he spoke to a sold-out crowd of small- and middle-market business leaders in Cleveland as part of a partnership Eureka! Ranch forged with CAMP Inc. to offer Hall's "Jump Start Your Business" program to Northeast Ohio CEOs.

At his presentation, Hall jumped around the room in what appeared to be a caffeine-induced energy ride, talking about ideas, success, bureaucracy and change. His audience soon realized, though, that his exuberance was really passion -- passion for changing the systems that smother innovation.

What are the best ways you've seen CEOs and business leaders demonstrate innovation?

If I'm talking about CEOs, I think of them as Chief Energy Originators. They've got to be the energy source for change, not the brakes on change. Their primary mission is to anticipate the future.

How? By making sure they're out there making sales calls, talking to customers, understanding the market place and understanding competitors -- not by listening to reports. They have to be [on the] front line, out there doing it.

They also do it by asking their managers the all-important questions, such as what do they anticipate the future will be like in five years? And, if that's where it's going, what are we doing about it now?

We have a tendency to be like Lucille Ball in the candy factory -- fighting today's issues but not looking out and asking, 'Where are we going?'

What's the biggest mistake business leaders make when they're trying to be innovative?

They assume a straight line. They assume that last year's results will be what will happen this year. The second mistake is that they believe the problem is people, not systems. They believe that if they just hire a different sales manager, despite the fact that five sales managers have failed, a miracle will occur.

It doesn't work that way. It's the system, and they are responsible for the system. If they're having trouble with sales, maybe their product offering isn't worth selling. Maybe the marketing message isn't worth hearing. Maybe it's not price.

In other words, if you're not getting the sales you need, yes, there's a problem. Don't beat up the workers; take responsibility for it.

The biggest mistake CEOs make is not taking responsibility for their company. They need to ask how the system is wrong and how to change it.

Who should a CEO involve in the idea development stage?

Every one of his direct reports. So if it's technology related, if it's legal, if it's finance, if it's manufacturing, if it's sales, those are the people who need be involved. [John] Deming said 94 percent of all problems are management related, meaning they're related to the system. And the only people that change the system are those in management.

What's the most effective form of brainstorming?

There's a real science to brainstorming. The old approach was ... everybody gets in a room, and the logical, rational people, which are three-quarters of the people, turn around and become right-brained, free-wheeling creatives.

That's gone. It doesn't work that way. Instead, what we have to do is build systems that leverage all of our people -- the logical people as well as the emotional/creative people -- and we need to bring them together in a system.

That's what the system that we've put together does. It allows us to bring them in. And the simple thing that people can do is make sure they're answering one of three questions: Why should I care? What's the dramatic difference? What's the wow that should get me excited? If it doesn't answer one of three questions, don't bother.

Second, what's in it for me, as in me the customer? What am I going to receive in exchange for investing my time, my money, my trouble?

And third, why should I believe you? There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there. Why should I really believe you?

So if you go into your brainstorming and you just say OK on a new product and you don't answer one of the questions, you've missed it.

How do you know when you've got a breakthrough idea?

If you're not sure, you already have your answer.

The truth is that many people have never, ever had one that they believed enough in, one they'd be willing to fight to the death for. When you have those, you know it. So if you're asking the question, you already have your answer.

We think shallow. In our USA Today world, our McPaper McMessage world, we don't commit ourselves. The only way you're going to commit yourself is if you truly have a passion for doing something.

When does good marketing start?

Marketing is facilitation. Marketing is the Henry Kissinger of the corporate world. Marketing's job is to build the alliances between the customers' intentions, anticipating the customers' needs, the product development and the packaging. Marketing is there to give the salespeople the materials that allow them to very efficiently accomplish the company's mission.

Marketing is not something that is done to something. It is the hub of the wheel. Done right, it is leadership; not leadership as in telling people what to do, but leadership as in facilitating technology and sales. It's taking the wonders the technology people have and figuring out a way to articulate it in such a way that the salespeople can help customers see its value in an instant.

Marketing is not a separate task -- it's facilitation, a communication, an interpretation role. It is communicating with true integrity exactly that which you are promising.

Who benefits most from idea generation sessions?

Anybody that's trying to sell something. In general, the strongest reaction has been from the more technical community because the system is a system that allows left-brain people to truly get the marketing idea for the first time. It really rocks with the more logical folks as opposed to sales and marketing people, who tend to not want to have that much discipline.

Is it fun to see people get that involved and excited for the first time?

It is beyond comprehension how quick and how fast they immediately see ideas. The reason why I'm at a stage where I'm bringing the program up is that the wow is just unbelievable.

This is my heart and my soul. And I truly believe I have a revolutionary heart and that we can change the systems -- we can win and make a difference. But the emperor's first got to be told that he's buck naked.

We have revolution, not evolution. It's not time for evolution. The time for evolution's gone. It's time for the revolution. We have to change our thinking systems radically. And that scares some people, especially people in the Midwest. They either get it or they don't. But survival's not mandatory.

How do you see the innovation process shaking out over the next decade with global competition?

I think we're going to have a death of companies that's beyond comprehension. We're already seeing it; they're all buying each other out. Selling out your company to another one, that basically says loser in my mind. Maybe it's good for the people in between, but the consolidation that we're seeing today, in the future, I think we're going to see some megacorporations go down. We're going to see a lot more of the bankruptcies we saw with Enron and WorldCom because the larger corporations are propped up right now.

Procter & Gamble says 50 percent of their new products are expected to come from outside the company. Fifty percent. That's one of the most encouraging things for small and medium-sized businesses. So the opportunity for the entrepreneur to create a business, get it running and make it to the seven-to-10-year point has never been better. Then, when they get tired of it, they can sell it off.

I truly believe it will be the small entrepreneurs and this younger generation that are going to have to do it. There are some baby boomers out there that somehow forgot the 1960s. They forgot the concept. They sold out, and frankly, I don't see them being willing to change. They like what they've got too much.

They like their lives and they're not willing to change. So it will be the youth that will have do it.

How to reach: Eureka! Ranch, (513) 271-9911 or www.eurekaranch.com

Thursday, 21 April 2005 20:00

Down on the farm

There's a tale that circulates around Eureka! Ranch about Doug Hall cutting the tie off of an executive from one of the nation's largest beer producers.

Hall is the founder and CEO of Eureka! Ranch, an 80-acre "farm" that grows ideas and harvests innovation for some of the America's top companies. Whether the story is fact or fiction, it represents Hall well -- he's a nonconformist who is unimpressed with the price of a tie or the size of an organization.

Hall's inventiveness and rebellious nature have driven Eureka! Ranch's success over the past 18 years. And while you may not recognize his name, you know his work -- Hall's patented scientific system for generating ideas, innovation and marketing has been the genesis for the development of thousands of products and services for clients including PepsiCo., AT&T and Frito-Lay.

With rates starting at $15,000 for one, two and three-day workshops, Hall and his team of innovation gurus boast an almost unheard of 88 percent customer repeat rate. In a nutshell, Hall's process of inspiring and developing business-building ideas that are more effective and measurably less risky works.

A chemical engineer by education and an alumnus of Procter & Gamble, where he was master marketing inventor, Hall is in the business of fostering creativity. Suits are forbidden at Eureka! Even Hall's tax attorneys have to shed the formal wear when they visit.

What started as a creative rebellion against the stifling corporate red tape that can suck the life out of even the most enthusiastic executive has become a revolutionary movement, attracting followers across the globe. That demand resulted in Hall opening an Oxford, England, location to serve his European clients.

For a man who is unimpressed with corporate America's constraints, Hall has created and nurtured a rather large business empire. The difference between him and Corporate America, he says, is that he created a system that's grown by fostering the creativity of a few rather than expanding by adding employees.

Smart Business spoke with Hall about how to step outside the board room and get the creative juices flowing.

What are the best ways you've seen CEOs and business leaders demonstrate innovation?

If I'm talking about CEOs, I think of them as Chief Energy Originators. They've got to be the energy source for change, not the brakes on change. Their primary mission is to anticipate the future.

How? By making sure they're out there making sales calls, talking to customers, understanding the market place and understanding competitors -- not by listening to reports. They have to be [on the] front line, out there doing it.

They also do it by asking their managers the all-important questions, such as what do they anticipate the future will be like in five years? And, if that's where it's going, what are we doing about it now?

We have a tendency to be like Lucille Ball in the candy factory -- fighting today's issues but not looking out and asking, 'Where are we going?'

What's the biggest mistake business leaders make when they're trying to be innovative?

They assume a straight line. They assume that last year's results will be what will happen this year. The second mistake is that they believe the problem is people, not systems. They believe that if they just hire a different sales manager, despite the fact that five sales managers have failed, a miracle will occur.

It doesn't work that way. It's the system, and they are responsible for the system. If they're having trouble with sales, maybe their product offering isn't worth selling. Maybe the marketing message isn't worth hearing. Maybe it's not price.

In other words, if you're not getting the sales you need, yes, there's a problem. Don't beat up the workers; take responsibility for it.

The biggest mistake CEOs make is not taking responsibility for their company. They need to ask how the system is wrong and how to change it.

Who should a CEO involve in the idea development stage?

Every one of his direct reports. So if it's technology related, if it's legal, if it's finance, if it's manufacturing, if it's sales, those are the people who need be involved. [John] Deming said 94 percent of all problems are management related, meaning they're related to the system. And the only people that change the system are those in management.

What's the most effective form of brainstorming?

There's a real science to brainstorming. The old approach was ... everybody gets in a room, and the logical, rational people, which are three-quarters of the people, turn around and become right-brained, free-wheeling creatives.

That's gone. It doesn't work that way. Instead, what we have to do is build systems that leverage all of our people -- the logical people as well as the emotional/creative people -- and we need to bring them together in a system.

That's what the system that we've put together does. It allows us to bring them in. And the simple thing that people can do is make sure they're answering one of three questions: Why should I care? What's the dramatic difference? What's the wow that should get me excited? If it doesn't answer one of three questions, don't bother.

Second, what's in it for me, as in me the customer? What am I going to receive in exchange for investing my time, my money, my trouble?

And third, why should I believe you? There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there. Why should I really believe you?

So if you go into your brainstorming and you just say OK on a new product and you don't answer one of the questions, you've missed it.

How do you know when you've got a breakthrough idea?

If you're not sure, you already have your answer.

The truth is that many people have never, ever had one that they believed enough in, one they'd be willing to fight to the death for. When you have those, you know it. So if you're asking the question, you already have your answer.

We think shallow. In our USA Today world, our McPaper McMessage world, we don't commit ourselves. The only way you're going to commit yourself is if you truly have a passion for doing something.

When does good marketing start?

Marketing is facilitation. Marketing is the Henry Kissinger of the corporate world. Marketing's job is to build the alliances between the customers' intentions, anticipating the customers' needs, the product development and the packaging. Marketing is there to give the salespeople the materials that allow them to very efficiently accomplish the company's mission.

Marketing is not something that is done to something. It is the hub of the wheel. Done right, it is leadership; not leadership as in telling people what to do, but leadership as in facilitating technology and sales. It's taking the wonders the technology people have and figuring out a way to articulate it in such a way that the salespeople can help customers see its value in an instant.

Marketing is not a separate task -- it's facilitation, a communication, an interpretation role. It is communicating with true integrity exactly that which you are promising.

Who benefits most from idea generation sessions?

Anybody that's trying to sell something. In general, the strongest reaction has been from the more technical community because the system is a system that allows left-brain people to truly get the marketing idea for the first time. It really rocks with the more logical folks as opposed to sales and marketing people, who tend to not want to have that much discipline.

Is it fun to see people get involved and excited for the first time?

It is beyond comprehension how quick and how fast they immediately see ideas. The reason why I'm at a stage where I'm bringing the program up is that the wow is just unbelievable.

This is my heart and my soul. And I truly believe I have a revolutionary heart and that we can change the systems -- we can win and make a difference. But the emperor's first got to be told that he's buck naked.

We have revolution, not evolution. It's not time for evolution. The time for evolution's gone. It's time for the revolution. We have to change our thinking systems radically. And that scares some people, especially people in the Midwest. They either get it or they don't. But survival's not mandatory.

How do you see the innovation process shaking out over the next decade with global competition?

I think we're going to have a death of companies that's beyond comprehension. We're already seeing it; they're all buying each other out. Selling out your company to another one, that basically says loser in my mind.

Maybe it's good for the people in between, but the consolidation that we're seeing today, in the future, I think we're going to see some megacorporations go down. We're going to see a lot more of the bankruptcies we saw with Enron and WorldCom because the larger corporations are propped up right now.

Procter & Gamble says 50 percent of their new products are expected to come from outside the company. Fifty percent. That's one of the most encouraging things for small and medium-sized businesses. So the opportunity for the entrepreneur to create a business, get it running and make it to the seven-to-10-year point has never been better. Then, when they get tired of it, they can sell it off.

I truly believe it will be the small entrepreneurs and this younger generation that are going to have to do it. There are some baby boomers out there that somehow forgot the 1960s. They forgot the concept. They sold out, and frankly, I don't see them being willing to change. They like what they've got too much.

They like their lives and they're not willing to change. So it will be the youth that will have do it.

HOW TO REACH: Eureka! Ranch, (513) 271-9911 or www.eurekaranch.com

Wednesday, 01 December 2004 08:47

Feeding Cleveland

Successful business leaders know how to plan, lead and multitask, and Anne Campbell Goodman has all three skills down pat. She has to -- her agency is larger than the vast majority of businesses in the six-county region it serves.

Goodman is the executive director of the Cleveland Foodbank.

The Foodbank focuses on alleviating hunger in the Greater Cleveland area, which is a massive undertaking. The Foodbank distributes 18 million pounds of food annually to more than 400 hunger programs in six counties; the task takes the efforts of 60 employees and 5,000 volunteers, and has a $5 million budget.

Since joining the agency in 1999, Goodman has streamlined hunger relief efforts in Northeast Ohio. In 2001, she managed a merger with Food Rescue of Northeast Ohio, another nonprofit food distributor working with local charities, eliminating the duplication of services and streamlining costs.

Last year, Goodman helped plan and execute the Foodbank's merger with the Greater Cleveland Committee on Hunger. She was responsible for Harvest for Hunger, one of the largest drives of its kind in the nation -- the 2003 Harvest for campaign was the most successful drive in its history, raising $1.95 million and more than 660,000 pounds of food for 19 counties.

It also reaped a $100,000 savings in administration overhead and took the Foodbank one step closer to its goal of putting fewer dollars into overhead and more into its mission.

The Foodbank's current $10 million capital campaign for a new community food distribution center is near completion. The center will replace four separate Foodbank facilities and provide a $250,000 annual cost savings.

Goodman's leadership of the Cleveland Foodbank impacts hunger relief efforts beyond its six-county borders. She coordinated Cleveland's participation in the largest national hunger study ever conducted and serves on the board of directors of the national association of food banks, America's Second Harvest.

Goodman's passion, hard work and inspiration is manifested in the many successes of the Cleveland Foodbank, such as more than doubling its fund-raising revenue and feeding more than 14 million meals to hungry men, women and children in our community.

How to reach: www.clevelandfoodbank.org and (216) 696-6007.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:19

Monumental success

The destiny of small family businesses isn't set in stone. Maria and Vincent "Jim" Milano Jr. are proof of that.

Thirty-five years ago, Vince Milano Sr. established Milano Monuments, supporting his family with a small but steady business designing and creating cemetery stones.

Since 2001, when Vince Sr.'s two children took over the business, Milano Monuments has grown into three separate yet related companies -- imported religious items, fresh and artificial flowers, and monuments and signage. It produces more than 3,000 monuments each year for customers throughout Northeast Ohio.

Jim and Maria grew up in the family business. The siblings worked summers for their father, and as they grew, so did their ideas about how the company could reach monumental proportions. When they purchased the company, they liquidated their personal assets and risked everything to invest in it.

"I kept thinking, 'What if we don't do this? We'll always wonder what might have been,'" says Jim, Milano Monuments' president.

The very nature of the business -- one that is tradition-laden, highly personal and primarily cost driven. -- presented obstacles. The Milanos knew growth wouldn't come from a sudden surge in demand but from a planned expansion through a holistic approach to pre- and post-burial needs.

They invested in state-of-the-art engraving and recycling equipment to reduce manufacturing costs and increase efficiencies. Then they expanded the flower business, added a statuary and religious items store, and purchased a building 10 times the size of the one they had to accommodate all services under one roof.

The Milanos hired a full-time sculptor and an artist to offer one-of-a-kind monuments and statuary. Jim designed a marketing plan targeting funeral directors and insurance consultants rather than relying on retail advertising. And they added a high-tech AutoCAD design program, which allows clients to see their monuments in full-scale form prior to manufacture. How to reach: Milano Monuments, (216) 362-1199 or www.milanomonuments.com

Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:07

Career path

With the launch of CareerBoard.com, Peter Tuttle changed the way people find jobs and employers fill positions in Northeast Ohio.

Tuttle held senior-level positions at at several large corporations before entering a partnership in 1989 to create Staffing Solutions Enterprises, a work force recruitment firm in Greater Cleveland. In 1996, he launched Staffsol.com, an Internet support site enabling candidates to respond online to job postings. The site had an immediate positive impact on Staffing Solutions and paved the way for CareerBoard.com, which hit cyberspace in 1997.

CareerBoard.com was the first Internet portal linking employers to job applicants 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it was an instant success. While being first sometimes means a quick rise, followed by a steady decline as competitors emerge, Tuttle's business model protected him.

"We went after local markets, while they (competitors) pursued national brands," says Tuttle.

CareerBoard.com offered the same services as the competitors that followed, but at significantly lower costs by outsourcing design and using smaller, locally based solutions providers. And it excluded employment companies, so corporate recruiters weren't competing with agencies for qualified candidates.

"Many of our competitors thought we were crazy to launch the CareerBoard business, as it took business away from our traditional staffing company," says Tuttle.

But the move strengthened Staffing Solutions and attracted so much business within the first year that it required an upgrade. By 1999, a new, more robust version was accompanied by expansion into the Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo markets. Today, the site averages 400,000 visitors a month.

This year, the assets of CareerBoard.com were sold to HRSmart, a global technology company headquartered in Dallas. The new CareerBoard LLC and its president, Tuttle, are headed for national expansion. How to reach: CareerBoard LLC, (216) 595-2225 or www.careerboard.com

Thursday, 11 March 2004 11:43

Executive Bios

Sandra Pianalto, president and CEO

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Pianalto's tenure at the Fed spans 20 years in positions including vice president of public affairs and COO. Before that, she served as an economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and on the staff of the Budget Committee of the United States House of Representatives.

She is on the boards of United Way Services of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Roundtable, the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, Leadership Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Akron Center for Economic Education.

Pianalto earned her bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Akron and a master's degree from George Washington University.

Catherine Henry, M.D.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Henry joined the Clinic in 1994 after practicing medicine at the Henry Ford Medical Group in Detroit. She has joint appointments at The Clinic in the departments of General Internal Medicine and Otolaryngology and Communicative Disorders. Her specialty is women's health.

Henry has served as president of the American Medical Women's Association and lectures on topics including heart disease in women and domestic violence. She is clinical assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Henry earned her bachelor's degree from Alma College and her medical degree from Wayne State University.

Barbara Danforth, executive director

YWCA of Greater Cleveland

Danforth's career experience is in law and public service. She was assistant attorney general for the state of Iowa, and in Cleveland, was chief counsel and acting law director and later became the city's chief prosecutor. Danforth served in Mayor Michael White's cabinet, then became legal administrator of the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.

She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and earned her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been active in Harambee Services to Families, East Side Catholic Shelter, the board of directors of Youth Visions and Project Friendship, and is president of United Way's Council of Agency Executives.

Under Danforth's leadership, the YWCA completed a major renovation project at the North Central branch and moved its headquarters to the YWCA Women's Center.

Maureen Cromling, president and CEO

Ross Environmental Services.

Cromling runs a family-owned business in Elyria founded in 1949 by her father. Ross Environmental Services is a sister company of Ross Incineration Services and Ross Transportation Services, also owned by the family.

Cromling is a founder of the Ohio Environmental Services Industry and a member of the Environmental Technology Council Board of Directors based in Washington, D.C.

She has served on the boards of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce, the Lorain County Community College Foundation, Leadership Lorain County, Team NEO, the Nord Mental Health Foundation and the Ross Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports education programs in Lorain County.

Rose Jenne, president and founder

Jenne Distributors

Jenne Distributors is a telecommunications products distributor in Avon. Jenne's previous entrepreneurial ventures include The Party Shoppe and N2Net Inc. Under her leadership, Jenne Distributors grew from $2.4 million in sales in 1986 to more than $50 million today.

Her company's growth and success netted Jenne The Weatherhead 100 Award for three consecutive years. Other awards include the Top 20 Women Business Owners in Northeast Ohio, Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year, the Golden 30 Award for five consecutive years and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award.

Jenne sits on the board of Light House Inc. and is a member of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, 26 August 2003 10:53

Too much innovation?

What happens when you take innovation too far?

James Griffith, president and CEO of The Timken Co., says it cost his business one-third of its overall annual revenue. It happened in 1981, when the bearing manufacturer's sales and profits were at record highs and foreign competition was just beginning to rear its head.

In response to suddenly aggressive offshore manufacturers, Timken invested heavily in product improvements that extended the useful life of its bearings by 10 times.

In theory, says Griffith, the move made good business sense because it differentiated Timken products from those of its competitors and underscored the company's commitment to continuous process and product improvement. But in its haste to one-up the competition, Timken forgot a basic tenant of business: New products are only as good as your customers' ability to use them.

"Few customers could take advantage (of the new bearings)," says Griffith.

The new -- and higher-priced -- bearings far outlasted the equipment they were used in, and competitors quickly flooded the market with less expensive, lower-performing ones. Within a year, Timken's sales dropped by one-third and the company posted losses for the first time in 50 years.

Griffith says it took more than a decade to return to the basic principles that had vaulted Timken to the top of its industry.

"Value must be defined through the eyes of the customer," Griffith says, repeating the mantra as though it were gospel. "Timken was smart enough to learn from its mistakes."

By the end of the late 1990s, Griffith and his management team set two priorities -- profitability and growth. They also developed several avenues to get there, including globalization, customer centricity and agility intertwined with innovation.

"Innovation is far more than just new processes in the manufacturing plants and new products," Griffith says. "It's about change."

The company looked to new services, strategic acquisitions, joint ventures with competitors, unconventional alliances and restructuring of customer relationships as ways to provide the much-needed spark to revenue.

Griffith points recent joint venture with competitors INA US Corp. and Rockwell Automation as one example of Timken's new strategy. The venture, Colinx LLC, allows the three companies to serve distributors better and reduce asset intensity by sharing a common distribution logistics platform that provides distributors with the ability to order online. Products are shipped from a common warehouse in Crossville, Tenn., on a common truck.

The distributors enjoy the economies of truckload shipments and ease in processing. The suppliers enjoy increased sales.

"The challenge is getting past the paradigms of working with competitors," says Griffith.

As proof of Timken's commitment, approximately 70 percent of its orders are processed through a shared distribution point. And it has a plant under construction in China that will produce high-volume standardized products in partnership with a Japanese competitor.

"When our customers have a need that can better be solved by joining forces with our competitors, we see this not as something we can do, but something we must do," Griffith says.

But while partnering with the competition is helping the company further its priorities, Griffith says it has not lost sight of the importance of controlled innovation. Timken recently invested in new technology centers in Romania, France and India, and acquired Torrington, a $1.2 billion manufacturer of specialty bearings that is heavily entrenched in the European market.

The moves are paying off. Last year, shareholder return was greater than 20 percent; the S&P 500 delivered losses of 20 percent.

So has Timken learned its lesson? Griffith says it has.

"The passion for innovation is still what's driving the company," he says. "But by focusing on the needs of the customer, we're confident we'll keep the legacy of Henry Timken alive for many years to come." How to reach: The Timken Co., (330) 438-3000

Monday, 31 March 2003 09:09

Who are you hiring

Every year despite safety programs and protective equipment people get hurt at work because of workplace violence.

In 2000, 16 percent of the 6.5 million acts of violence against adults occured in the workplace. And the Department of Justice predicts that this year 1 million people will be a victim of a violent crime while on the job.

According to OSHA, this year violent acts are expected to result in 500,000 employees missing 1.8 million days of work with a subsequent $55 million in lost wages.

While the majority of violent encounters involve employees in close contact with the public like police officers, taxi drivers and health care professionals, violence can also occur when companies unknowingly hire people with violent backgrounds.

Mark Erenburg of Kaff Systems Inc., a human resources consulting company, says one of the ways to prevent workplace violence is to change the company’s hiring practices.

“If the employer knew, or should have known, that the person they hired was a sex offender…and something happens at the workplace, that employer is up the proverbial estuary without any visible means of locomotion,” says Erenburg.

No one can predict when an employee will lash out and commit a violent crime but the best way to prevent the possibility of violence is to investigate the background of the people you hire.

Until recently, HR managers often conducted cursory background searches for fear the courts favor the privacy rights of potential employee over the rights of potential employer. The result is that employers often do little or no due diligence when it comes to hiring.

It is, in fact, legal to check into a job candidate’s past but Erenburg says companies need the complete package which includes accurate information and an analysis of what that information means and what can be used.

Mary Balasz of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, and former attorney with the National Labor Relations Board recommends doing an extensive background search, even looking at a job candidate’s credit history before hiring.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act does guarantee a certain level of privacy regarding an individual’s credit history so requests must be authorized. "People have to sign a release to do that and the easiest time to get it is when they’re applying for a job,” says Balasz.

“Since 9-11, there’s been an incredible concern about who we’re hiring for reasons other than negligent hiring (suits),” says Erenburg. “Many employers question, ‘Do I really know who I’ve got here?’”

How to reach: Kaff Systems Inc., (440) 349-6624 or www.kaffsystems.com; Taft, Stettinius and Hollister LLP, (216) 241-3141 or www.taftlaw.com

Monday, 31 March 2003 09:05

A healthy risk

Most businesses have been forced to analyze their benefit packages as the cost of health insurance rises. Some have even considered eliminating health insurance completely from employee benefit's package. But for some companies there is another option that at one time was only used by large companies -- self-insurance.

Self-insurance or self-funding has recently seen a rise in popularity among small and mid-size businesses. According to a 2000 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, approximately 50 million workers and their dependants receive benefits through self-insured group health plans. That number represents 33 percent of the total participants in private employment-based plans nationwide.

Even though the idea is to save money in the end, businesses do assume some risk with self-insurance and because the employer assumes the risk of paying health care claims, overall cash flow can be an issue. But as Donna Luby, president of Self-Funded Plans (SFI) in Cleveland, a third part administrator for employee benefit plans explains, “When the dollar gets a little tighter, the employer is sometimes willing to take on a new risk.”

Despite the risk, self-insurance has become an increasingly attractive alternative for many new, growing companies that have the right demographics. The right demographic usually means unmarried, under 30 years and relatively physically active. Recent statistics indicate a young, unmarried workforce means fewer claims and lower health costs.

In the case that life-threatening illness occurs, such as open-heart surgery or cancer, Luby says businesses that self-insure should not be totally liable. Self-insured companies should buy something called to catastrophic insurance that takes over when employee claims surpasses a specific dollar amount.

One of the reason some employer are looking to self-insurance is that many young healthy companies feel they are paying for others and not realizing the benefit of their good health. “If you have a very good year with a fully insured product, the money goes to the insurer,” says Luby.

How to reach: Self-Funded Plans Inc., (216) 566-1505 or www.medillume.com/sfpi.htm

Self-Funded Plans Web site

Monday, 31 March 2003 08:50

Mental floss

Have you ever walked into a meeting and asked, "Does anyone have any good ideas?" only to be met with blank stares and silence?

You’re not alone. Harold McAlindon says that happens all too often.

McAlindon is president of Nashville-based Parthenon Innovation Group, specialists in certified innovator programs, creativity consulting and training. Parthenon has worked with companies nationwide, including Sara Lee and Jimmy Dean Foods, to translate creative ideas into positive change and a competitive advantage.

McAlindon says leaders need to facilitate ideas, not just ask for them.

"You can’t demand innovation and creativity ... it’s like yelling at someone to relax," he says.

Many businesses move meetings offsite, expecting that an out-of-the-office meeting will promote out-of-the-box thinking.

But it’s not that easy.

"It takes mental stimulation ... removing those things that artificially get in the way of free-wheeling thought ... (and) an environment that actually stimulates or energizes your creativity," says McAlindon.

Considering the cost of meetings — materials, facilities, facilitator fees and employees’ time off the job — training and development are often the first budget items slashed when the economy takes a downturn. However, McAlindon says businesses shouldn’t slash too much.

"Innovation and creativity have been identified as the No. 1 business need for success in the 21st century," he says.

To make the most of each dollar spent on training and development, McAlindon says it needs to go beyond lectures and handouts and actually help employees retain and internalize ideas. The key is to offer an experience that affects the multiple levels of intellect to increase retention and absorption.

Atmosphere, interaction, participation and change play key roles in training and creativity, he says. The old saying, "What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; but what I participate in, becomes a part of me," is just as true in business as it is in life, says McAlindon.

When the group can’t leave the office behind, make any change possible — change who people sit by and who they interact with or take them out of their comfort zone.

"Any time you have change, that stimulates a different way of looking at something," says McAlindon.

How to reach: Parthenon Innovation Group, (615) 386-9960 or www.proinnovator.com

Parthenon Innovation Group