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Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Movers & Shakers July 2013

Wells Fargo Advisors has announced that Jeremy Baynes, CFP has joined the Hudson, Ohio office as associate vice president of investments. Baynes joins the firm from Edward Jones. He holds a B.B.A. in finance from Kent State University and has nearly 11 years of experience as a financial advisor.

 

Alliance Solutions Group, a full-service staffing and recruitment agency, and NSL Analytical Services Inc., an independent commercial testing laboratory, have been named 2013 Leading EDGE Award winners. The two companies are among 101 midsize companies in Northeast Ohio recognized for demonstrating exceptional business growth and contributing to the local economy.

The Entrepreneurs EDGE is a non-profit organization that drives growth for Northeast Ohio companies by serving as a strategic resource for CEOs and their leadership teams. EDGE focuses on the creation of programs, services and events for current and future midsize companies ($5 million to $1 billion in revenue) that sell some of their products or services outside Northeast Ohio.

 

As Ernst & Young’s 2012 Northeast Ohio and National Entrepreneur Of The Year winner for manufacturing and distribution, Magnus International Group founder, Eric Lofquist is also a local judge for the 2013 awards program. Additionally, he has been selected to help officiate the national EOY competition from 2014 to 2016.

Considered the world’s most prestigious business award, Entrepreneur Of The Year has been celebrating extraordinary performance since 1986. Today, the competition has expanded to more than 140 cities in more than 50 countries.

 

Brouse McDowell, a leading regional business law firm, is pleased to announce that Heather M. Barnes has been named chair of the intellectual property practice group. Barnes is a partner in the firm’s Akron office and is a registered patent attorney. Her practice includes the domestic and international prosecution of patents, trademarks and copyrights, as well as litigation research pertaining to all areas of intellectual property.

 

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP recently announced that two of its attorney’s, William Phillips and David Wallace, were recognized as “Leaders in their Field” in the 2013 edition of Chambers USA.

In addition, Taft is once again “Top Ranked” in its Ohio Labor & Employment practice. The firm is recognized as a “Leading Firm” in 11 practice areas.

 

Diebold Inc. announced its board of directors has named Andy W. Mattes as the company’s new president and CEO. Mattes was also named a board director. In addition, Henry D.G. Wallace, Diebold executive chairman of the board, will assume the non-executive chairman role effective August 15.

Mattes, 52, has a strong record of driving growth and improving profitability in large, global businesses. He has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology and telecommunications industries - primarily with Hewlett-Packard Co. and Siemens AG.

Mattes most recently was senior vice president, global strategic partnerships at Violin Memory, a manufacturer of flash memory computer storage systems. He will remain with Violin in an advisory role.

Diebold Inc. is a global leader in providing integrated self-service delivery and security systems and services.

Published in Cleveland

As an organization grows, changes are inevitable.

New employees are added, promotions are made and job responsibilities shift.

But any time you have change, you have the potential for conflict. Few people are comfortable with change, and each person will react differently in making the adjustments necessary to move forward with the company.

The most important thing a CEO can do is to be active in confronting potential conflict. Conflict goes hand-in-hand with change. Employees begin to question management, co-workers and even themselves as they are forced outside of their comfort zones. Those questions can lead to misunderstandings that can lead to conflict, and that will ultimately slow your growth.

Don’t passively avoid potential conflict. Instead, actively engage members of your organization by providing the necessary forums both for you to communicate your strategy and vision and for them to communicate their concerns back to you. An active conversation will help drive your vision for the company through the organization and will also help foster your next generation of leaders as they take a more active role.

Only when employees are challenged to think — and to challenge you — will you maximize your organization’s potential. Do you want employees who don’t speak up when they recognize what may be a fatal flaw in your grand strategy? Or would you rather have employees who are actively thinking about the big-picture goals of the company and doing their part to contribute?

Regardless of what size company you run, it comes down to a simple choice.

It’s a choice between having employees acting like robots or acting like people. If you choose robots, you will have to have all the answers. If you choose people, you only have to have some of the answers because the employees will help you find the rest.

Engaging employees in conversations, meetings and decision-making helps them take ownership and helps you create a happier work force. If they are not allowed to speak, gossip and rumors will drag down your productivity.

Actively provide two-way communication. Let employees do the talking and hear what they have to say. The results may surprise you. Those closest to the customer often know best what needs to be done to improve sales, service or efficiency.

Too many CEOs lament the lack of good people to help take them to the next level. Maybe the problem is more CEOs need to create good people rather than driving them off with a work environment that’s better suited to a good robot.

Published in Cleveland

Legend has it that in 1505, shortly after Michelangelo’s David was placed at the main entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, Pope Julius II marveled at its brilliance and questioned the artist about how the masterpiece was created.

As the story goes, Michelangelo responded, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Whether this conversation actually happened is anybody’s guess, but the exchange provides a glimpse into the mind of a genius who could see what others could not.

Today, similar visionaries populate the landscape. In the business world, they often manifest themselves in the form of entrepreneurs.

One of the greatest skill sets that entrepreneurs possess is the ability to balance calculated risk-taking with a dogged pursuit of ideas they believe will succeed. This is combined with a passion for the solutions, products and services being offered, and a keen understanding of the marketplace. Entrepreneurs have a very good sense of what people will or will not buy, and are willing to continuously tweak their solutions to adapt to changing needs, wants and desires.

But draw back the curtain a bit more and you’ll find that an entrepreneur’s real mystique lies elsewhere. It is his or her mysterious sixth sense used for noticing gaps in the marketplace that others fail to see. It is the ability to understand the gap and develop effective solutions that fill it.

Thirty years ago, who could have predicted how ubiquitous smartphones would be?

Sure, if you watched episodes of Star Trek in the 1960s you noticed those nifty communicators that Captain Kirk and his crew used. They not-too-surprisingly look like the early flip phones of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But today’s smartphone — essentially a pocket computer that packs so much power — required a different kind of vision, much like Michelangelo seeing the angel in the marble.

Most of the savviest entrepreneurs I know go through life looking at what will be once you remove everything that doesn’t belong. They see opportunities to create markets where markets do not or have not existed. Their efforts, and vision for what could be, fuel the economy and create jobs.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, however. Even the best ideas often fail. Depending on which source you believe, as many as nine out of every 10 new business start-ups won’t make it to year three.

Two other factors play critical roles in bringing what you see to life — timing and people.

Having the right idea at the wrong time can doom even the most passionate of efforts. And if you don’t surround yourself with smart and capable people who complement both your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll either swiftly run out of bandwidth or be unable to effectively execute on the ideas.

All of which brings us back to the idea of vision.

How important is vision and this mysterious ability to see what’s not there?

It is the true crux of success. Vision is knowing what’s needed for the right market at the right time at the right price point. It is understanding through which channels the solutions need to be delivered. And it is recognizing how to best amplify an idea so you can reach as large an audience of potential consumers as possible and maximize revenue opportunities

Michelangelo summed up his artistic philosophy simply:  “Every block of stone has a statue inside it. It is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

As entrepreneurs, the question is therefore straightforward:  How will you discover the next great business idea? And more important, can it have as lasting an impact as David?

Published in Cleveland
Sunday, 30 June 2013 12:00

Health care reform: In like a lion

Depending on the source, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a recently enacted law designed to reform the health care and health insurance systems, is either a bold step toward improving health care in the U.S. or a growth-stunting nightmare that upsets 60 years of progress in employer-provided health insurance. Either way, the legislation is becoming a reality and is quickly pushing businesses closer to the administrative equivalent of the fiscal cliff.

“What I tell people is that PPACA is really the most significant health care legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965,” says Marty Hauser, CEO of SummaCare Inc.

The law is an attempt to reform the insurance industry, he says, eliminating certain practices such as refusing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and improving access while bringing greater transparency and accountability to health care delivery.

“These are monumental changes,” says William Hutter, founder and CEO of Sequent. “This is one of the largest government overhauls ever. It’s going to dramatically impact employers and the employer-based distribution system for health care.”

With that, employers will need to better understand the administrative requirements they’ll face, which is not simple.

“It’s a vastly complicated law,” says Joe Popp, JD, LLM, tax supervisor and affordable care act implementation specialist at Rea & Associates. To illustrate its complexity, Popp says the PPACA is being administered simultaneously by the IRS, Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“All in, it’s going to take eight years of change,” Hutter says. “And most of the rules and the regulations that are going to govern how this is enacted aren’t even written yet.”

“It’s kind of like trying to change the tire on your car while you’re driving 70 miles per hour down the highway. Things are changing almost daily,” Hauser says.

Furthermore, business owners are going to have to cope with the increased costs.

Paul Jackson, a partner at Roetzel & Andress says there will be 21 increased taxes or fees that business owners or employers have to pick up.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that those will be more than $1 trillion each year — that’s trillion with a ‘T,’” he says.

Waiting for guidance

While there is some guidance on how businesses can prepare for health care reform, service providers who spoke with Smart Business said their employer clients complain about a lack of regulatory clarity. In fact, that was a concern for Sen. Max Baucus, a major contributor to the act. At a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, he expressed concern over the gap in understanding of the PPACA by small businesses, which led him to say, now famously, of the act’s implementation, “I just see a huge train wreck coming down.”

And there certainly is reason for businesses to worry because a misstep on the side of the administration can lead to significant penalties.

“What I’m hearing most from clients is they’re concerned with compliance,” Jackson says. “They’re concerned about whether they fall within the pay or play, but also concerned about the penalties.” For example, he says employers can be fined $100 per day per individual for not providing the summary of benefits and coverage statement to employees, which is one of the new disclosure documents required by the act.

Another significant concern is confusion.

“Without clarity on how this affects them as an employer, employers are really grasping at straws,” says Kevin Cavalier, vice president of sales at SummaCare,

Still, some businesses wonder where they should begin.

“There are companies that have been on top of this for a long time, they’re ready to go and they’re waiting just like we are for guidance coming out from the IRS and HHS, and they are ready; they’ve done their implementation work,” Popp says.”But for most businesses, they haven’t really started or they’re not very far on the path.”

Cavalier says in the fall, the government will begin public service announcements and education to the employer community.

“I think then you’ll start to see advice for an employer based upon their specific situation,” he says.

However, quickly approaching is the enactment of one of the more complicated provisions, referred to as “pay or play,” which will require tough choices.

“The employer needs to make decisions on how it impacts them and what to do come 2014,” says Cavalier.

Pay or play

Most affected by the law will be employers with about 50 employees. According to the DOL, a large employer, defined as one with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees — those working an average of 30 or more hours weekly — could be assessed a tax for not offering its full-time employees the opportunity to enroll in a health insurance plan that offers minimum essential coverage.

This means employers have to make a choice whether to offer affordable coverage or pay the tax penalty, which has led some employers to question the value of providing health insurance. According to Jackson, “We have a number of clients that are seriously considering dumping their health care and just saying, ‘OK, we’re going to pay the $2,000 per year, per employee penalty because we can’t obtain health care coverage for employees for that amount of money.’”

Companies with between 40 and 60 employees have a tough decision to make.

“For those companies, some of the struggles are, is there a way you can get under 50 so that you don’t have to take on some of these other burdens,” Popp says.

Those trying to operate with fewer employees could implement lean processes, work with fewer people or outsource responsibilities such as payroll.

However, Cavalier warns of the repercussions of not offering health insurance.

“The con is if the employer chooses to do that, what does it do for employee morale?” he says. “What does it do for retention of good employees, especially if you’re in an industry that’s competitive in regards to obtaining new employees that have skill sets that you need?”

Beyond the pay or play decision, employers will also have to deal with individual market reinsurance fees, changes to W-2 reporting requirements, minimum essential coverage requirements and the implementation of health care exchanges.

“The administrative and compliance demands of ACA are very confusing and very expensive,” Hutter says.

Silver lining?

While it’s certainly easy to see the PPACA as a dark cloud, there are positive aspects to the law. Hauser says, when looking at the act broadly, it is attempting to address pressing issues. “Regardless of whether you support or oppose the health care law, I think everyone would agree that the current way we do health care in America is pretty non-sustainable, especially in a world economy.”

He says the act has brought more focus to prevention by creating incentives for employers to offer more wellness and incentive programs “so that we can move from a sick-care model to a real health care model.”

Though discussions of the costs associated with the act have been at the forefront, there are other considerations for employees.

“It’s not numbers. The numbers are going to be what the numbers are, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that,” Hutter says. “Knowing that, now you have to figure out what the best thing to do for your organization is.”

He says the most important asset companies have is the thinking and creative abilities of their employees.

“Companies are going to have to think long and hard about whether they want to undermine the relationship with that most valuable asset of any company, which is its people.”

Published in Cleveland

When Gary Shamis, Bob Littman and Mark Goldfarb created the accounting and business consulting firm SS&G Inc. in 1987, the trio had a vision that defied the traditional accounting world.

Their radical idea:  Focus on people.

“It was a real sweatshop kind of mentality for the profession,” Goldfarb says. “You worked 3,000 hours a year [eight hours a day, every day of the year]. We opened it up and created opportunities for people who worked part-time.”

That was the genesis of the partners’ philosophy that today continues to define how SS&G differentiates itself from the competition:  growth, client service, and an employee-centric culture.

“All three work together harmoniously,” says Shamis, senior managing director. “If you have them all going, and you focus on it, the results can be very positive.”

You’ll notice that absent among the three is the notion of operating with a generous supply of black ink.

“We always felt that partner profitability and things like that were going to be a byproduct of doing all the other things right, so we didn't focus our business on enhancing the bottom line of the owners,” Shamis says. “We focused our business on cultural aspects that we thought would be good for our people, good for our clients, and in the end, what we thought would be good for us.

“We publish stories about client service going above and beyond in terms of, say, driving through a snowstorm to deliver a tax return,” says Goldfarb, senior managing director. “We really try to make that part of the culture, so that when somebody calls, everyone knows here, you had better call that client back; if not immediately, certainly within the next business day.”

This mentality has helped the partners and their teams spark significant growth over the past few decades. From a small firm with about 10 employees, SS&G has grown to more than 500 employees at 12 offices in eight cities in four states, including new offices in Chicago. With annual revenue of $70 million, SS&G ranks among the top 100 independent accounting firms in the U.S., including being named the 41st largest U.S. accounting firm by Accounting Today.

Here’s how Shamis, Goldfarb and Littman grew the firm by emphasizing its differentiation and is taking steps to ensure SS&G continues long into the future.

Get the talent

Accounting had been a traditionally male-dominated industry until the 1980s, when it reached parity. In recent years, however, women have been rapidly joining the ranks.

So with an eye on whom and where the talent was coming from, SS&G years ago established a plan that fit lifestyle concerns and issues into the firm’s culture.

“Most of our offices are suburban,” Shamis says. “Many other large accounting firms are downtown. Suburban locations make it a lot easier for somebody who is female and raising a family to be more accessible to what she needs access to — and it really became a focus on being able to try to hire these professionals who were women in their family-raising years.

“We have been able to get this incredible, top-notch talent, but we had to create an environment that was slightly different,” he says.

And, Goldfarb says, this has contributed to such a positive work environment at SS&G that it has become genetic.

“We are told all the time from people we hire that this is such a great, warm environment here compared to where they worked in a previous life,” he says. “It's something that is really part of our DNA.”

With a powerful corporate DNA in place, you can then develop a culture that attracts talent by which you can grow a company.

“It’s important that everybody here understands the culture; it's important that we follow it, we preach it,” says Littman, SS&G’s managing director. “Our organization is obviously about people. And to attract key people, you have to grow. If you don't grow, you can't find the talent and you can't keep the talent. Growth has been important, and that is why we have been a Weatherhead 100 company more than 10 times.”

Be creative in your growth

Creativity comes in many forms. SS&G looked at the kind of organic growth it had achieved over the years and took an entrepreneurial path.

First, the partners began to develop specialized divisions.

“We formed a wealth management business almost 20 years ago,” Goldfarb says. “Health care consulting, probably 15 years ago; payroll, 30 years ago; SS&G Parkland, which is our consulting division, was created last year.”

In an effort to strengthen this differentiation, SS&G opted to mold itself as a one-stop shop for clients and their financial service needs.

“These businesses share the same culture of being employee-centric,” Goldfarb says. “All share the same client service culture and growth for the purpose of creating opportunities for employees.”

In addition to creating new divisions, SS&G also played a large part in creating an association of accounting firms. Shamis led the formation of the Leading Edge Alliance, of which SS&G has been a member for 10 years.

Leading Edge firms share best practices. Goldfarb says it has been an invaluable asset — not just to SS&G but to all the organizations and their respective clients.

Develop a succession plan

While your company may have established a name for itself through differentiation, all the years of building that reputation can be lost in a flash if, for example, a new leadership team comes in with different ideas. Thus the need for a succession plan.

SS&G recently completed a reorganization of the firm’s leadership, and then spent more than a year preparing the company for the transition.

The plan signaled to SS&G employees that Littman, Shamis and Goldfarb were focused on the long-term future of the firm and intended to protect it from the confusion and disorder that often happens whenever there is a shakeup of any size.

Doing so also allowed the trio to help boost morale, motivation and satisfaction among employees since more than likely there will be other changes, such as promotions and movement across positions. Also, it helps clients reduce any fears that the team they’re used to working with will still be there for them.

Under SS&G’s succession plan, Littman assumes the managing director role. Shamis and Goldfarb take on lesser roles, but remain very involved with the firm.

“I have been the managing partner for close to 30 years, and I’ve had a great run,” Shamis says. “It is a lot to give up, but I am starting to realize that there is a lot to look forward to in terms of Bob running this organization.”

And that optimism extends to how SS&G will continue to differentiate itself from the competition.

“I am really excited to see what this place is going to look like down the road,” Shamis says. “I think it is even going to exceed where it is today.”

How to reach: SS&G Inc., (440) 248-8787 or www.ssandg.com

 

Takeaways

Getting the talent is a priority.

Be creative in finding growth options.

Draw up a succession plan and live by it.

 

The File

 

Mark Goldfarb, senior managing director

Bob Littman, managing director

Gary Shamis, senior managing director

SS&G Inc.

 

Born: All in Greater Cleveland/Akron

What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?

Gary: My first job was in a place called Mr. Junior's on Cedar Road in University Heights. I sold boys clothes. I think I learned if you work hard, and make the commitment, then good things will happen.

Mark: A caddy at Fairlawn Country Club. Certainly you learned etiquette and you learned service.

Bob: I was a tennis instructor. What I really learned from that was dealing with people, trying to help people.

What is the best business advice you ever received?

Gary: Try to work on your business instead of in your business. That was a big change for me and for our firm years ago. The firm allowed me to begin working on the business. And in that time frame, I think our firm has grown probably 600 or 700 percent.

Mark: People do business with people they like. Relationships are very important in the business world. That was from my father, Bernard Goldfarb.

Bob: I don't want to copy off Mark, but relationships are really important to me as is taking time to get to know people and build meaningful relationships.

What is your definition of business success?

Mark: If you do a great job for your clients, and you treat your employees well, success will follow.

Bob: I certainly think similar to what Mark has said and that's building relationships, creating an opportunity for other people in this organization so they can do the same and also being able to go to work, personally anyways, and have fun and enjoy it. It's not a job; it's a career.

Gary: I have a really narrow view of this and people know that. For more than 32 years, I have always felt that if you can be a little bit better next year than you were last year then that is going to drive success. I think constant improvement, the ability to continually try to get better, to not be satisfied with the status quo, has really been a huge driver for me.

Mark on the succession plan:

It's just been a tremendous ride for all of us the last 26 years. I will continue to be responsible for managing the firm’s Akron office, serve on the firm’s executive committee, chair the firm’s finance committee, act as the liaison to SS&G Healthcare and SS&G Parkland, develop larger business opportunities and continue as a client service partner

Bob on the succession plan:

Mark and Gary are not retiring. This is part of the succession plan and they still have very, very important roles here with the firm to help execute certain growth strategies and still be involved in the management of the organization. We have viewed the succession as an evolution and not an event from the beginning. Gary will be actively involved in leading the firm’s growth strategy, including geographic and existing office.  He will also focus on a restaurant initiative and other large opportunities.

Gary on the succession plan:

I really think Bob has the abilities to drive this firm to even more successful and higher levels than we've operated at in the past. I just think that this firm happens to be incredibly lucky, blessed, or whatever you want to call it, to have Bob Littman take over the practice.

Published in Cleveland

Over and over again, Lorry Wagner has heard Northeast Ohio business and government officials asking, “Why offshore wind and why Ohio?” Wagner and his team at Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. are asking those people, “Why not?”

Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. or LEEDCo, is a regional non-profit and economic development organization building an offshore wind energy industry in Ohio. Offshore wind refers to the construction of wind farms in bodies of water to generate electricity. Wagner, a seasoned wind energy engineer and a longstanding member of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force, is president of Cleveland-based LEEDCo, a position he assumed in May 2010.

“The Cleveland Foundation had been looking at expanding their role in the community through economic development and they identified energy as one of the areas that made sense for them to support,” Wagner says. “The particular aspect of the energy industry that fit our skill set the best was offshore wind.”

From 2004 until 2009 when LEEDCo was formed, Cuyahoga County and Lorain County officials were involved in an energy task force to explore whether or not this idea made sense. They concluded that there was no reason not to develop offshore wind in the region.

“LEEDCo was an outgrowth of the task force because they realized they needed a business to push this forward,” Wagner says.

Now Wagner and his team are fighting for federal funding as well as the support of local officials to help people realize the benefits of offshore wind to the Northeast Ohio region.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of LEEDCo’s efforts is the standoffish attitude of some key people who could help bring offshore wind to the region.

“The biggest challenge is that many people around here think that if we just work harder and the economy comes back, life will be like it used to be,” Wagner says. “In 1950, we had 914,000 people in Cleveland. Today we’ve got 393,000 and we went from No. 7 to No. 47 in the country because of that thinking.

“We just keep skating where the puck is instead of skating to where the puck is going to be.” That’s the biggest challenge facing LEEDCo — the attitude of people who refuse to see the benefit of a new energy source that is booming in places like Europe.

“We’re trying to do something that’s a $200 billion business around the world,” he says. “Wouldn’t you think that somebody would say, ‘It’s a $200 billion business and all these major companies around the world are doing it, shouldn’t we try it and see if it works?’”

Offshore wind energy is a matter of doing something that this region is going to benefit from.

“It is a proven job generation engine,” he says. “Over 50,000 jobs in Europe have been created and given the pathway Europe is on now, it will probably create upward of 200,000 jobs. If it can be competitive, there is no doubt it will create jobs.”

The kind of jobs offshore wind would create is mostly in the services industry. They are good paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.

“Once you develop the jobs in a region, they stay there,” Wagner says.

Offshore wind energy is also renewable, cleans up the environment, has a stable price for 20 years, and doesn’t have a fuel cost. It’s a game changer in the utility industry.

“It certainly isn’t the earth-shaking industry that the Internet has been, but look at what’s happened to all of the traditional companies who ruled the world 20 years ago,” Wagner says. “Many of those have changed. We’re in a similar situation when it comes to energy, because the major utilities are used to being a monopoly and running the show. That is shifting.”

According to Wagner, most people under the age of 40 understand offshore wind energy and support the idea. Many retired people do as well.

“The challenge is getting people 40 to 65 to do something different and if I had the answer to that, I’d be king of the world,” he says.

To help push their effort forward, LEEDCo has been on a mission to receive federal funding.

“Right now we have about 12 partners working on the first phase of a federal grant,” Wagner says. “Out of 60-some applicants, seven projects were chosen for Department of Energy funding. We were one of those projects and the only one in the Great Lakes.”

LEEDCo has a target of February 12, 2014 to submit its next proposal to the Department of Energy.

“We compete against six other teams for the final round of funding and three projects will be funded,” he says. “That’s what we are focused on.”

How to reach: Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., (216) 241-9201 or www.leedco.org

Published in Cleveland

Aggregate value of domestic M&A transactions continues to swell despite a reduced number of announced deals, with dollars committed in May surpassing last year’s pace, supported by several billion-dollar-plus strategic buys.

Strategic buyers are actively pursuing acquisitions, incentivized by a slow organic growth environment and abundant cash reserves. S&P 500 companies are sitting on $1.7 trillion in cash and need to put money to work in higher earning assets. Competition for quality acquisition opportunities remains fierce, with industry buyers showing an increased willingness to pay premium valuations for growth and quantifiable synergies.

May highlights support a healthy strategic buyer appetite:

A. Schulman Inc. announced it was acquiring Akron-based Network Polymers Inc., a niche compounder of thermoplastic resins and alloys, bringing complementary business in specialty engineered plastics ABS and ASA. The deal is expected to strengthen its U.S. market presence by increasing penetration in key end markets such as building and construction, agricultural products and lawn and garden, as well as expand its distribution business. Schulman intends to continue an aggressive bolt-on acquisition strategy in its specialty plastics business, as well as other opportunities for transformational acquisitions.

The Timken Co. acquired Standard Machine Ltd., its fifth acquisition in 2013. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada-based company provides new gearboxes, gearbox service and repair, open gearing, large fabrication, machining, and field technical services to the mining, oil and gas, and pulp and paper markets. The acquisition will expand Timken’s industrial services capabilities.

TransDigm Group Inc. announced it was acquiring Arkwin Industries Inc., a Westbury, New York-based manufacturer of hydraulic and fuel system components for commercial and military aircraft, helicopters and other specialty applications. Arkwin is TransDigm’s second acquisition this year, following Aerosonic Corp. in April, a Clearwater, Florida-based manufacturer of proprietary air data sensing, test and display components for use primarily in the business jet, helicopter and military markets. Both transactions were completed in June.

PolyOne Corp. completed the sale of its vinyl dispersion, blending and suspension resin assets to Mexichem SAB de CV. Assets acquired include manufacturing plants in Pedricktown, New Jersey; Henry, Illinois; and a resin research facility in Avon Lake, Ohio.

 

Deal of the Month

Its second major strategic partnership in the last four months, Cincinnati’s Catholic Health Partners announced an agreement with Kaiser Permanente of Ohio to acquire its existing health plan, medical group practice and care delivery operations in Northeast Ohio, which services more than 80,000 members. The transaction follows CHP’s February purchase of a minority ownership stake in Akron’s Summa Health System Inc., one of the largest integrated health care delivery systems in Ohio.

CHP is the largest health system in Ohio, serving the metropolitan markets of Cincinnati, Toledo, Youngstown, Lima, Lorain, Springfield, and Tiffin. Through its integrated health care delivery network, comprised of hospitals, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, wellness centers, and hospice programs, the company is estimated to service 38 percent of Ohio’s residents throughout 28 counties.

 

Andrew Petryk is managing director and principal of Brown Gibbons Lang & Co. LLC, an investment bank serving the middle market. Contact him at (216) 920-6613 or apetryk@bglco.com

Published in Cleveland
Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Helping your team work together

Whether in the workplace or in sports, teamwork can produce extraordinary results. While this seems like a relatively simple task, teamwork does not happen automatically. There are a number of factors that are required for a team to develop and work cohesively and seamlessly.

At Clark-Reliance, we attempt to always use the following rules in our interactions:

Help each other be right, not wrong.

This is the underpinning of all successful teamwork. Our employees are encouraged to try to help their colleagues make a correct decision. This helps to avoid duplication of tasks. It also helps to avoid tasks being executed which are not in the best interest of the company.

Look for ways to make ideas work, not for reasons they won’t.

Make sure that you are promoting listening skills. Never dismiss an idea from someone. Listen to what someone else has to contribute and to try to help make that idea work.

If in doubt, check it out!

Don’t make negative assumptions about each other.

Simply stated — don’t engage in water cooler banter. Instead of fostering negative communication, create an environment of positive communication. If you are uncertain about something, go to the person directly and verify the facts.

Help each other win, and take pride in each other’s victories.

Celebrate your co-worker’s accomplishments. Share compliments. You will find that your enthusiasm is contagious.

Speak positively about each other and the organization.

When you have a chance (internally or externally) speak positively about your colleagues or your company. This can be at press opportunities or charitable events. Always promote the company and your colleagues.

Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances. 

The adage, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,” can be applied in life and business.

There will inevitably be difficult circumstances where difficult decisions will need to be made in a decisive manner. You have to carry a positive attitude no matter the outcome of those decisions. Do everything with enthusiasm because if you have a good attitude, it will come back to you in return.

Act with initiative and courage.

This is Clark-Reliance’s “empowerment team rule.” We spend a lot of time ensuring that everyone in our organization understands that they have the right to participate and are encouraged to take the initiative to help drive positive outcomes, no matter how small they believe their idea is.

We want our employees to feel comfortable to take the initiative to do what they know is right. We want them to understand what the company is trying to accomplish.

Whatever you want, give it away.

This is troubling for some. For example if you want someone to trust you and have them respect and trust you, then you need to engender those same values in someone else.

If you want to be trusted and respected, you have to be trusted and respectful as well.  Those who trust and respect others are generally those most trusted and respected by others.

Don’t lose faith.

There are always going to be times when the rules have been stressed, strained and broken. As long as everyone keeps pushing in the same direction, it will heal itself.

Have fun.

We want everyone to have fun doing what they do. We are direct and serious about running a successful business, but we want employees to have a positive, fulfilled and enriching career, and so should you.

 

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.

Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.

Published in Columnist

When her husband’s commercial real estate development business began to suffer in the late 1980s, Laura K.T. Schriver was concerned for the well-being of her family.

“I had three kids about to go to college, a house and a very nice living,” Schriver says.  “I had to think, me, my Savior and I, what was I going to do? I don’t have a college education, so I couldn’t fall back on my credentials. It was either I was going to open a catering business or I was going to do something with language.”

While she was trying to decide how to employ one or both of her loves, Schriver, a native of Buenos Aires who is fluent in Spanish, was called by a district attorney’s office to interpret for a case. She then received a call from Immigration and Nationalization Services asking if she could recommend a Mandarin interpreter. Immediately she recognized an opportunity and jumped on it. Schriver installed a phone line and set up her kitchen counter as an office and began to recruit and deploy interpreters for clients requesting them.

More than 20 years later, Schriver is leading a business with more than 150 employees and roughly 5,000 independently contracted global linguists. Whether it’s interpreting the spoken word or translating the written word, the company offers services for more than 200 languages.

“The entire company is open to ideas and we listen to them all,” says Schriver, Language Services Associates’ founder, chairman and CEO. “With our IT department, we dream it, and they create it. That’s the best part of knowing that you have these people who are true creators.”

Don’t limit yourself

Technology is at the core of everything that LSA does, and Schriver says her employees are trained that very little, if anything, is impossible.

“We don’t limit our client to the product that we have as is,” Schriver says. “We create a product that will completely take care of the client’s needs. If we don’t have it, we make it. Most of our software is proprietary, with the exception of the standard document, word processing and design products.”

In addition to face-to-face interpretation and text translation, LSA also offers telephonic interpretation services. With Interpretalk, LSA’s clients can access a live telephonic interpreter in less than 30 seconds.

The company continues to enhance its video remote, text translation, American Sign Language and language assessment services.

LSA also continues to find a market in the prison industry by addressing cultural language differences that may arise.

“Hispanics in particular carry two last names,” Schriver says. “So you have Jorge Fernandez-Lopez. They would go out and say, ‘Mr. Lopez?’ And none of them answer because the first last name is the legal last name. It’s Mr. Fernandez. Lopez would be his mother’s maiden name. And people in the United States don’t generally know that.”

Ready to serve

Schriver’s challenge is to stay ahead of the curve and be ready when languages that have not required her services in the past become more prominent. It’s not always easy to match up an independent contractor with the right language and need.

“We not only clear the credentials of all prospective linguists before adding them to our network, but we also put them through LSA’s rigorous verification and qualification process to demonstrate competency in spoken language conversion,” she says. “This allows us to see who the people are that we want to partner with, and who can represent our company in an interpretation situation the best. You really have to search high and low.”

How to reach: Language Services Associates, (800) 305-9673 or www.lsaweb.com

Published in Philadelphia

The changes for tax year 2013 are already in place, but many individuals are still struggling to figure out what the new laws and regulations mean for their investments, estate plans, and businesses, says Steve Foster, a vice president and client adviser at FirstMerit. “With the 2012 tax season behind us, we’re spending a lot of time helping clients understand the significant changes that are taking place for 2013, how they may be affected, and the planning opportunities available to them,” he says.

Will anything change for taxpayers in 2013?

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013, signed into law on Jan. 2, averted the tax increases that would have resulted from the expiration of 2001 tax laws known as EGTRAA, or the Bush-era tax cuts. However, there are changes that will affect all wage earners, while others will impact only those taxpayers in the highest bracket. There are also a number of tax deductions, credits, incentives and tax treatments that were extended and will be a benefit to business owners.

What is the change that will affect all wage earners?

The act did not include an extension of the Social Security payroll tax reduction that began in 2011. As a result, the tax rate for the wage earner reverted from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, so in 2013, taxpayers are taking home 2 percent less than they did in the previous two years.

What are some of the other significant provisions of the act?

While the income tax brackets enacted in 2001 — ranging from 10 to 35 percent — are now permanent, a new 39.6 percent income tax bracket has been added for high-income earners. In addition, those in that higher tax bracket — singles with taxable income over $400,000 and joint filers with taxable income in excess of $450,000 — will now have capital gains and qualified dividends taxed at 20 percent, compared to 15 percent previously. Other changes include reinstated phase-outs of personal exemptions, new limits on itemized deductions and increased adjusted gross income limitations for deducting medical expenses. In summary, it will primarily be the higher income earners who will feel the pain of both higher tax rates and reduced tax deductions.

What provisions could positively affect taxpayers?

In addition to maintaining existing income tax rates for the majority of taxpayers, numerous credits and exemptions were also extended or made permanent, including the alternative minimum tax exemption amount, which has been permanently patched and will be indexed for inflation. Additionally, the child tax credit was also made permanent, as well as a number of tax incentives pertaining to higher education.

In addition, the estate tax exemption remains at $5 million per person and $10 million per married couple and will be indexed for inflation. The exemption amount also remains portable to spouses, who previously had to use it or lose it. The downside is that the top estate and gift tax rate will increase from 35 to 40 percent. Lastly, the act extended the provision allowing tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts directly to public charities through 2013.

How does the act affect business owners?

The act extended a number of tax deductions for businesses that were set to expire, including the enhanced code Section 179 business expensing and 50 percent bonus depreciation on qualified property. Both provisions allow businesses to take larger deductions now rather than waiting until future years.

Are there any other tax changes in 2013 that are not part of the act?

Yes. In 2013 taxpayers may now be subject to an additional income and capital gains tax under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — a.k.a. Obamacare. Under PPACA, there is an additional 3.8 percent surtax on capital gains, dividends and other investment income for certain taxpayers — singles with more than $200,000 in modified adjusted gross income and joint filers with more than $250,000 — which also includes trusts and estates. Therefore, the effective top rate on capital gains and dividends is now 23.8 percent.

For more information, contact Steve Foster at steve.foster@?rstmerit.com. FirstMerit does not offer tax advice. Please consult your tax professional.

Published in Cleveland