Courie Weston

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

Skill stock

If you’ve ever wondered just how good a manager you really are, the answer may be only a keystroke away.

Results Plus, an Independence-based firm that offers executive seminars, boasts a free online survey that will analyze your management style and offer tips to improve personal management practices.

While the site is great for a quick management skills analysis, it also acts as a marketing tool for the company and its services.

“It’s a substantial part of our whole marketing effort,” says Dick Zalack, Results Plus founder. “Essentially, (the survey) is one of the steps in the sales process. When a client says, ‘Send me more info,’ we direct them to the Web page.”

The survey, at www.resultsplus.cc, asks visitors to select a job category, then poses 30 true/false questions, such as “I work from a clean and organized desk,” and “I am confident in shifting responsibility to others.” Responses are tallied and the site provides both your management style and tips to improve it.

For example, if you answer “no” to “I let people do their jobs and don’t try to micromanage,” the advice reads, “Convince yourself that others can do the job well, too.” Furthermore, an “obsession with perfection can be a terrible waste of time and is very demoralizing to co-workers.”

Because Results Plus is also mining for prospects and providing a value-added benefit to its clients, after the analysis, you’re directed to descriptions of dozens of Results Plus seminars that address the management weaknesses you exhibit.

There are two types of seminars, says Zalack — those aimed at entrepreneurs and business owners and those designed for managers and staff members. All tackle such subjects as developing good management skills, tactical goal setting and decision making, desk management and dealing with stress.

But, Zalack says, even if you’re not looking for seminars, it’s crucial that, as a manager, you analyze your strengths and weaknesses so you can become an effective leader.

And the results will only be helpful if you’re honest with yourself. How to reach: Results Plus, (330) 225-1511

Courie Weston is an editorial intern at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Movie money

Most Ohioans probably don't know that the film industry has brought the state $161 million since 1976.

That year saw the inception of the Ohio Film Commission, whose purpose it is to bring filmmakers to Ohio and aid crews in production.

Steve Cover, the film commissioner, says that film productions typically spend $500,000 per week. When crews stick around for four or five weeks, the dollars add up.

"The production hires local crew, carpenters, gaffers and location managers, putting Ohioans to work," he says.

The recent Michael Douglas movie "Traffic," filmed in Columbus and Cincinnati in May and June, will bring $3 million to $5 million to the Ohio economy, Cover says. That's not chump change when you consider that the dollars not only go toward salaries, but to other businesses as well. Actors and crew members spend money to eat, dry-clean their clothing, rent cars and buy gas, as well on other discretionary goods and services during their stay. "Bringing films to Ohio puts us on the map," Cover says. "It adds prestige and lets people know that Ohio is a great place to do business."

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Lapping up luxury

So you think your business idea has gone to the dogs with the fluctuating stock market? Try this on for size.

INN to PETS has opened in Westlake, offering upscale boarding for pets. The facility offers a 2,000-square-foot play area and air conditioning to make your pet feel like a well-groomed business traveler.

"Kitty City" suites boast television sets and window seats that face bird feeders. Dog owners have their choice of four types of housing -- standard, deluxe, luxury or special care -- for dogs with unique needs. Luxury suites offer a large bed with Sherpa sheets, as well as a television set (you never know if they'll want to catch those Rin-Tin-Tin reruns).

The cost for such plushness? $24.50 per night.

INN to PETS offers taxi service to transport pets between the facility and groomers or veterinarians. Think spa. The facility also provides drop-off and pick-up at the pet's home seven days a week. In the future, owners will be able to log on to the Internet to see their pets in real time -- via a Web cam installed in the play area. One last tidbit of news: INN to PETS is located at 825 Bassett (no pun intended) Road. Talk about location. How to reach: INN to PETS, (440) 835-2535

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Growth by attrition

For seven months, Barry Jareb was a man on a mission. Jareb, manager of marketing communications at Rockwell Automation, had one goal in mind during that time: narrow the company's 25 advertising agencies down to one.

Rockwell had more agencies than it had divisions, which made the move that much more obvious for execs looking to streamline operations. The best plan, Jareb says, was to interview many advertising firms and test their abilities in order to narrow the choices. The process, which he calls "strategic sourcing," is a technique Rockwell uses to purchase commodities, products such as fasteners, semi-conductors, wire and cable.

At first glance, it might seem odd to use the same approach to purchase advertising services. But, Jareb says, "We wanted to make sure we were working cost-effectively, so we went for a fact-based approach."

With that in mind, Jareb undertook a lengthy quest to find one agency to take over all of Rockwell's advertising. Here's how he did it:

Getting started

Jareb and the other members of his team began by preparing a list of ad agencies to review. The list included the 25 incumbent agencies, as well as 25 others which were known for their results.

"We chose agencies that we knew were good and we threw in our personal favorites," says Jareb. "We knew who was qualified from researching via the Internet and trade publications. We included agencies from all over the country."

Know your prospects

Next, Rockwell's team sent each advertising firm a request for background information.

"We wanted to know the basics," Jareb explains. "For example, we asked them how big the company is, how many employees it has and what the agency's core competencies are."

The questions, Jareb says, allowed Rockwell to determine which agencies were capable of handling Rockwell's needs. After poring over the questionnaires, Jareb and his team cut the number of candidates in half.

Ask for samples

Once he had an idea of what the agencies said they could do, Jareb asked them to prove it. Each remaining candidate was asked for sample work. Jareb's team, in return, submitted samples of previous Rockwell ads and asked the agencies to quote what they would have charged for the same piece, the time it would have taken for the agency to turn it around and what was considered a rush job. Finally, Jareb had each prospect suggest cost-cutting strategies.

Mock project

By then, Jareb says, "we finally had the candidates narrowed down to a handful. The only thing left to test was their creative capabilities." Since Rockwell Corp. sells automation products as well as e-commerce management solutions, Jareb gave the advertising firms a project to deal with each division. He assigned open campaigns for a newly expanded motion control product division and for a multimedia customer-contact management center.

The assignments, which the agencies were told they could develop without restrictions, were based on real product launches. That allowed Rockwell to use the results once it picked a firm.

When the final assignment was completed -- seven months into the search -- Rockwell named Wyse Advertising as its agency of record. Wyse was handed the reins to fill the advertising needs in all of Rockwell's departments and offices, in both Cleveland and Milwaukee, Wis.

One key result was that Jareb and his team members have true insight into the capabilities of Wyse.And, even if he claims it's too soon to tell exactly how much money the move will save Rockwell -- early estimates suggest it could be as much as 15 percent -- Jareb says one thing's certain: The company will no longer be saddled with the overhead of working with 25 different agencies.

How to reach: Rockwell Automation, (440) 646-5000

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Know your foe

It's easy to say, "Cream the competition." But for many entrepreneurs, it's hard to know exactly how to do that.

Large corporations can afford to dip into their coffers and spend loads of money on competitive intelligence, but what about the little guys?

Getting the goods on what your competitors are doing doesn't have to tap your company's cash flow to the point of vulnerability. In fact, according to Harvey Wiseberg, co-founder and regional coordinator of the Cleveland chapter of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), any business owner can take advantage of ways to keep up on his or her industry. Here's how.

Know what you're looking for

According to Wiseberg, competitive intelligence involves collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on competitors and competitive situations. The idea is to keep ahead of your competitors by knowing what they're doing now and what they're planning for the future.

"You want to try to avoid being blindsided," says Wiseberg.

That may entail regular reports about new product lines, prospective clients or whether a business is looking to expand its market share into your territory. The bottom line, says Wiseberg, is to be prepared.

Wiseberg's organization, SCIP, was founded in the mid-'80s and has about 6,000 members worldwide. Its goals are to promote competitive intelligence, shed light on competitive intelligence and train people with these tools through seminars, speakers and annual meetings.

Understand competitive intelligence laws

"Often people confuse what we're doing with espionage," Wiseberg says, so much so that often, when he speaks at conferences, he will indulge his sense of humor by dressing up in a trench coat. "Then I take it off and say, 'We don't work like that and we don't look like this; we look like all of you.'"

He emphasizes that keeping an eye on the competition is legal.

"We stand by a code of ethics, and we collect data in two ways: from published sources (magazine articles in business journals) and primary information. With primary information, we develop interview guides to aid in talking to people and eliciting the information you want."

The power of competitive intelligence

If business owners have an idea of where their competition stands, they can detect early warning signs of something going on in the marketplace.

"A major advantage to knowing the competition is being able to stay viable in a quickly changing world and staying competitive," Wiseberg says.

Small businesses might even benefit more from competitive intelligence than larger corporations because their density makes them highly flexible.

"Small businesses can move quickly, as opposed to the larger companies that have to deal with layers of management before making a change," Wiseberg explains. "That's why I say, 'It's hard to teach an elephant to dance.'" How to reach: SCIP, (440) 442-1670 or www.scip.org

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Defragmentation

Kevin Lacamera went to graduate school in English, but before completing his dissertation he had a shocking revelation -- he didn't like books.

Instead, Lacamera discovered he was fascinated with technology and devoted his spare time to building Web pages and reading up on the latest software.

So when Lacamera left Case Western Reserve University's grad program in 1998 -- just short of completing his Ph.D. -- it was with no regrets. He met Rick Ferris, a Cleveland real estate broker, and in March of this year, they founded Rentjungle.com, one of the first dot-coms to try to bring a bit of order to the highly fragmented apartment rental industry.

Earlier this summer, Rentjungle.com opened as a search vehicle for prospective tenants seeking apartments. But realizing that targeting consumers only has led to many a dot-com's downfall, Lacamera quickly abandoned that idea. The company now uses a business-to-business model and targets apartment managers and product vendors.

It's a place, he says, where managers can bid on refrigerators and buy tape or carpet, track orders and do their accounting. That made it easier to secure funding. Lacamera and Ferris also found that demand for such a service was untapped.

Says Ferris, "Throughout the apartment management profession, the purchasing procedure has historically been a poorly controlled, heavily paper-based activity."

Lacamera adds that buying and selling supplies for apartments is normally a long process of calling, using catalogs, tracking purchase orders and getting them approved.

"With Rentjungle, the process becomes very efficient," he says.

So while the current operations aren't exactly what Lacamera and Ferris envisioned when they drafted their business plan, such is the way today as fledgling dot-com companies learn to adapt to the emerging business world on the Net. Here's what they've learned.

Pair up with powerful allies

According to Lacamera, Rentjungle's entire concept would have cost about $100 million to build from scratch. Knowing that type of funding just wouldn't be possible today, he and Ferris sought out a partner to design and maintain their site.

They partnered with PurchasePro.com Inc., a designer of browser-based e-commerce marketplaces whose client list includes companies such as America Online, Office Depot and Sprint.

"PurchasePro brings customer support, sales and an aggressive campaign," says Lacamera. "I think they picked Rentjungle because it brings them access to a great market. After all, we'll have 100,000 potential buyers in the United States alone," as large a market as the other companies PurchasePro manages.

Keep it simple

"One of our primary concerns was making Rentjungle easy to use," says Lacamera. "So it's not only user-friendly, it's idiot-friendly."

Buyers are free to use the same vendors they're already buying from. Rentjungle will even post existing catalogs if they're available from vendors. This way, buyers can have that extra comfort level.

"We understand that people are being asked to change the way they do things, but we offer a support system," says Lacamera.

The support system is extensive. PurchasePro will e-enable any client that is not already so enabled. Additionally, buyers are assigned an assistant who will call clients every three days to make sure the system is working.

"If they need hand-holding, we will provide it," says Lacamera.

Ensure profitability

Many big name dot-coms -- from Amazon.com to eToys -- are struggling to make money. Most of the rest have watched their market values plummet. So Lacamera and Ferris built in a safety net to ensure a reasonable level of profitability and make their investors feel comfortable.

They've set up a traditional membership fee system to create a continuous revenue stream. But, they also recognize that if the real estate market shifts and the fee suddenly becomes difficult for clients to come up with, they can obliterate it and still make money through other means.

First, there is a vending transaction fee. Rentjungle charges a fee to vendors to fill a purchase order or bid request.

"For example, a vendor will pay $3 to fill an order for 10 refrigerators," says Lacamera.

The fee is small compared to the thousands of dollars in business the vendor gains through exposure to Rentjungle's users. Lacamera's research shows that the acceptance rate for this charge is 100 percent.

The other fee is the $9 transaction fee assessed vendors who want to respond to bid requests. After vendors are notified that buyers have bid on their products, they pay this fee if they choose to respond to the bid request and pursue the transaction. Lacamera's research shows this response rate to be about 80 percent positive.

Whether clients take to the concept remains to be seen, but with such high demand for rental units and supplies in place like Silicon Valley, Lacamera is banking on its acceptance in the Northeast Ohio community.

"We like being in Cleveland," he says. "It shows you don't have to be from Silicon Valley to be successful." How to reach: Rentjungle.com, (877) MY-NEW-PLACE

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

From tragedy to success

In 1969, Iris Rubinfield was 42 years old. Her father, Melvin Rose, had recently retired as president of Western Reserve Manufacturing. Rubinfield's brother, Arnold, assumed the reins.

Within a year, however, Arnold died suddenly of a heart attack and Rubinfield's husband, Don, who had been working with Arnold since Melvin retired, stepped up to the challenge of heading the caster building company on his own.

Iris Rubinfield helped out on a daily basis, working in sales and in the factory -- without a paycheck. She toiled on weekends and holidays for the first five years to help Don develop a niche for the company. But tragedy was just beginning to take its toll.

In 1979, Don died of a heart attack and Iris was faced with a dilemma. She asked herself, "Can I run this company by myself?"

"I never expected to take over," Rubinfield admits. "I absolutely did not think I could do it."

She did have some help. Six months before her husband died, he hired Ted Lewis to be his assistant. Lewis helped Rubinfield through the troubling first months, when she dealt with grief and a new responsibility that she had never expected to take on.

As if the dark cloud hadn't hovered over Rubinfield's life enough, Lewis soon suffered a fatal heart attack. His death left Rubinfield with Lewis' assistant, Jim Donofrio, as her only close aide.

Today, Rubinfield says Donofrio's help was -- and is -- invaluable, and he remains an important cog in Western Reserve Manufacturing's machine.

As Rubinfield reflects on 21 years of heading a business she never intended to run, she offers valuable insight on the transition from owner's wife to owner.

Follow a good trend

For several years, Rubinfield wasn't sure she was up to the task of running a manufacturing company.

"I honestly didn't think I was going to make it," she says. "Luckily, my husband's assistant kept good records."

Knowing that the trend her husband had set was a solid one, she says that in those first weeks, she made the decision to follow the tradition that was already in place.

"It took a few years to feel confident enough to deviate from my husband's formula," she says.

Prove yourself

In those early days, Rubinfield traveled with sales representatives and visited her largest customers.

"I felt I needed to learn what was needed in the field," she says.

She also discovered she had to prove her abilities to more than just herself.

"I learned from customers later on that I had been on a trial basis," she explains. "They had doubts that I would be able to continue the company's tradition."

But, following her husband's formula paid off. Says Rubinfield, "They must have been satisfied because I kept those customers and still have them today."

Don't fear failure

As a woman, Rubinfield says there was skepticism about whether she would be able to succeed. But she subscribes to the "no fear" philosophy: "Learn as you go along, and don't be afraid of failure," she says.

"Women can't be afraid to try their hand at business. You have to go out and try, and if you don't succeed, you cut your losses and go forward."

By ignoring her fear, Rubinfield has expanded Western Reserve Manufacturing in the years that she has been in control. In the 1980s, it was primarily a dealer of Master casters; today, the factory produces an expanded product line including wires, furniture protectors and adhesive wheels for moving furniture.

Rubinfield says that expanding the business has been the most rewarding experience she's had.

"I love the challenge," she says. "I wouldn't be satisfied if we had not grown." How to reach: Western Reserve Manufacturing, (216) 641-0500

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Stretching the wire

Rick Silvaggio's company may only have three employees, but he still manages to have a significant impact on his community.

Five-year-old RML Tool and Die was recently recognized for "leadership and investment in Cleveland's workers and neighborhoods" by the Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network (WIRE-Net).

John Colm, executive director of WIRE-Net, says Silvaggio has been a consistent leader in efforts to improve the quality of education and training available to high school students. One of Silvaggio's biggest projects involves Max Hayes High School.

He volunteers on the advisory committee and talks to the students -- and those at nearby middle schools -- about life after high school.

"I am working with the teachers and the kids to broaden their horizons on what machine shop is all about," says Silvaggio.

In addition to working with children, he is involved in adult education programs, offering hands-on machining and talking about the trade. It's his way of revitalizing a trade that, over the past few decades, has embarked on a slow death march.

"Back in 1980, there were a couple articles written that said for every four die makers retiring, there was one to take their place," says Silvaggio. "So I'd like to get more kids involved in the machine trades."

Plus, he explains, he feels indebted to the Cleveland public schools for giving him the opportunity to enter the tool and die trade.

"I wanted to give back," he says.

In addition to helping young people understand life after school, Silvaggio's efforts have helped RML itself -- he has hired two high school pupils and one adult education pupil. But perhaps more important, his involvement helps the tool and die trade.

"The more students that graduate from the trade, it puts more tool and die makers and/or machinists out in the open market," he says. "Also, it gives me an opportunity to hire employees. I train them, they get to learn the trade,and I have a long-term employee." How to reach: RML Tool and Die, (216) 941-1615; WIRE-Net, (216) 631-7330

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Reaching out

Ed Davidson has a simple philosophy: "To get, you gotta give."

Davidson, CEO of Cooperative Resource Services Ltd., says the philosophy is a part of him and a part of how he's always done things. That would explain why he gives his enthusiasm and financial resources, a large chunk of his personal time and his entrepreneurial talents to charities and causes, and sees to it that his employees have time to do the same.

"The universe is a vacuum," he says. "So if you want to be loved, you better give it; if you want money, you better give it."

Davidson's company, CRS, provides outsourced employee relocation services, including mortgage services, appraisal management and corporate relocation policy consultation.

"Our culture, the actual mission statement of our company, is to deliver complex relocation and real estate service to our stakeholders," he says. "The thing is, we've always considered the community to be one of our stakeholders."

Several years ago, to ensure his mission, Davidson created the Davidson Foundation, a public charity to which 5 percent of CRS' corporate profits are granted. Additionally, he is committed to local charities, including the Jewish Community Federation, the Center for Families and Children, Cleveland Sports Stars Hall of Fame, United Cerebral Palsy, the March of Dimes, Project Love, United Way 20 Plus Club, American Cinema Awards and The Actors Fund.

Davidson has also made a commitment to a planned gifts initiative for the Cleveland Jewish Federation. He estimates that $15 trillion will pass intergenerationally in the next 10 years.

"A lot of that is going to end up going to taxes," he says. "But by the use of certain planned giving techniques, people can not only minimize the amount that's going to go to the government, they also tremendously help themselves and charities."

But Davidson says corporate giving is more than simply charity from the top of an organization. Employees truly make the difference. So it's no surprise that he is quick to deflect credit to his CRS REACHOUT program, a system that rewards employees for volunteerism.

"We give our employees up to four days off per year for charitable efforts, and partially match contributions they make to those charities," he says. "The net result has been that over the period of the last two years, we've seen almost a fivefold increase in the community service our employees have done; we actually measure it."

Nationally, nearly 500 CRS employees participate in the program.

Because the side effects of good deeds are generally good, giving money to charity doesn't just help local people in need, it also helps employees take pride in their work. By matching employee contributions to local charities and congratulating them for philanthropy, Davidson says, you're telling them that it pays to have a high mission of service.

And, you also bring good people to the company.

"If you are the kind of organization that gives back, you tend to attract good people," says Davidson. "We're very vocal in terms of our new-hire campaigns to let people know the kind of company they're working for." How to reach: Cooperative Resource Services, (440) 684-5301

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Designer offices

Design.

It's a dirty word for some business owners who feel that an office is solely a place to work. But ask the employees whether they'd rather work in a sterile environment or a place that has a bit of character, and you'll find the answer is overwhelmingly tilted toward the character side.

A good office these days combines form and function in a pleasant environment. Here is a look at three offices around Northeast Ohio and insight into their design and their functionality.

Digiknow

The offices of Digiknow are a little more fun than those of the average marketing firm. The recreation room boasts a pool table and pinball machines. A living room area offers a large television and a comfortable couch.

"We wanted a fun, open environment," says King Hill, president of Digiknow.

He liked the idea of offering rooms that provide whatever employees want. So, if they work best on a comfy couch, they have it. If they need a break and want to shoot pool, they have a pool table.

Hill believes this set-up appeals to clients and visitors, as well.

"I wanted the 'wow' factor," he admits. "When they walk up to the outside, they won't have any idea what's in here."

That's true. From the outside, Digiknow is a plain white building. Walk inside, however, and you're faced with eight computer screens.

Normally, these screens display the word "Digiknow," with one letter per screen, but when clients come in, they find on the screens useful information that pertains to their companies or to the work Digiknow is putting together for them.

Market.al

Market.al's offices give employees their own personal dens. Wood-paneled walls are the norm, as are plush carpets and doors leading onto the company's 2000-square-foot deck, which is two levels and wraps around the entire building.

John Sancin, president, says the set-up reflects the interdisciplinary way the company works.

"We have designers working with programmers working with marketing people," he says. "This gives them a chance to work together in a variety of different places."

Plus, he says, the environment invites -- even inspires -- creativity. The lack of cubes forces employees to "get out of the box," says Sancin of the company's inventive process.

Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz

The reception area of Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz show a little more creativity than those at other law firms. Watercolor paintings adorn the walls and plush couches sit on a hardwood floor. A wall of windows reveals the Cleveland skyline.

Marc Krantz, managing partner, says the layout represents the firm's refusal to conform.

"We're not just another law firm," he says. "We have a little more freewheeling nature."

Items that look like ancient artifacts sit on shelves around the reception area, inviting interpretation as to the meaning of it all. What does that watercolor represent, anyway? Is that a Persian rug under the coffee table?

All of this leads to one simple fact: A visitor may not want to leave the entryway.

"It's just kind of cool," says Krantz. How to reach: DigiKnow, (216) 292-7259; Market.al, (440) 717-7600; Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz, (216) 696-8700

Courie Weston (csweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Page 1 of 4