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If your organization is using social networking sites to search for potential job candidates, it is not alone. Social networking sites have become an increasingly popular recruitment and screening tool because of the ease and efficiency they allow for finding new talent. However, in the absence of an existing evidence-based model for using social networking sites, organizations must find a way to balance the risks and rewards as research catches up to practice.

Recent surveys tell us that LinkedIn is the most frequently used social networking site for recruiting and screening potential candidates. Perhaps this is because LinkedIn was developed for professional networking purposes and offers the most structure and consistency in what and how potential candidate information is presented. The challenge, however, is that depending on the job, both relevant and non-relevant information can be found on LinkedIn.

Smart Business spoke with Rosanna F. Miguel, Ph.D., SPHR, an assistant professor of Human Resource Management in the Department of Management, Marketing and Logistics in the Boler School of Business at John Carroll University, about the effective use of social media for hiring.

How are organizations using social networking sites to reap the most rewards?

Many organizations are using social networking sites to search for passive candidates who possess a specific skill set, which may be difficult to find. For example, an organization may be interested in finding bilingual candidates with leadership skills, or candidates with a background in health care and management. Other uses include looking for active job seekers, posting job information, or participating in discussions to spur interest in the organization and increase employer brand. Most often, organizations seek out individuals to fill salaried mid- to upper-level management or director positions.

What guidelines should organizations follow to minimize legal risks?

The structure and consistency offered by LinkedIn is a substantial advantage over sites such as Facebook and Twitter that do not allow for a highly disciplined approach to the use of available information. Structure and consistency lead to higher validity and help ensure organizations are meeting the professional and legal guidelines that have been in place since the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

While the use of social networking sites for screening purposes is relatively new, the potential pitfalls associated with this approach are not. The guidelines that apply to the use of the standard resume and application blank, for example, apply to the use of social networking sites. In fact, LinkedIn has been described as a new version of the traditional application blank. Problems arise when organizations use LinkedIn or other social networking sites haphazardly, without a formal policy or concern for professional and legal guidelines. Most importantly, organizations must ensure the use of job relevant information about potential candidates by focusing their search on the requirements of the job based on a recent job analysis. Information that may discriminate against protected groups or that is not job relevant must be avoided (e.g., photographs, age, personal information, etc.).

How can the use of social networking sites positively and negatively affect an organization’s pool of potential candidates?

Organizations are looking to social networking sites to expand the population of high potential candidates, particularly when organizations demand a specific skill set that may be in high demand by employers. Some of the most talented individuals can be found on social networking sites, and their identities are just a few clicks away. However, research tells us that social networking sites do not adequately represent the true population of potential candidates. That is, fewer Hispanics and African-Americans use social networking sites. This means that relying exclusively on social networking sites to search for potential candidates is not effective for increasing employee diversity and ensuring that minorities have a fair chance of being selected. This puts organizations at risk for discrimination lawsuits. Organizations can avoid this potential pitfall by including other methods to source candidates, such as job boards, job fairs and magazines. More specifically, methods that have a higher chance of targeting minority groups can be selected to widen the demographic representation of potential candidates.

Why should organizations create social networking policies to screen job candidates?

Surveys suggest that more than half of all organizations using social networking sites to screen job candidates do not have a formal policy for doing so and do not intend to create one in the near future. If one of the goals is to ensure social networking sites are used according to professional and legal guidelines in a consistent and fair manner that leads to the identification of job relevant information, a policy to describe those guidelines to the users of social networking sites is a must. An EEOC or OFCCP audit should not come as a surprise to organizations; organizations must be prepared to support their recruitment and selection procedures in advance of a potential discrimination lawsuit, regardless of whether that procedure involves social networking sites or not.

Rosanna F. Miguel, Ph.D., SPHR, is an assistant professor of Human Resource Management in the Department of Management, Marketing, and Logistics in the Boler School of Business at John Carroll University. Reach her at

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by John Carroll University

Overseas sales and exports can really help business owners grow their companies. But, when the company gets its first international inquiry, an owner might say, “I always deal cash in advance. Send me a check. I’ll send you the product.”

That’s not how the world works, says Art Rice, vice president and manager of International Operations and Product Management at FirstMerit Bank.

“The world rarely operates on cash in advance anymore. So, it may be days, weeks or months between the actual sale of the merchandise or service and the resolution of the accounts receivable,” he says.

This extended sales cycle can strain your working capital, but the U.S. government has several programs to help, Rice says, including the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Eximbank) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

And your banker can be very helpful as you get into international sales or expand into new markets, says Frank Pak, vice president, International Division, at FirstMerit.

“We can serve as a great referral source to other professionals involved in supporting exporters, and also referring them to government assistance centers like the U.S. Export Assistance Centers or the SBA, an international lawyer, a freight forwarder, export insurance broker, etc.,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Rice and Pak about available export support programs.

What are some export support programs?

The Export Working Capital Programs of the Eximbank and the SBA provide an exporter with funds for things like materials and payroll while producing the product. Banks receive a 90 percent guarantee on the loan’s principal and interest, because the government wants to encourage U.S. job creation. Also, the work in process can be included in the advance funding calculations.

It’s better to work with a bank that has Delegated Lending Authority from the Eximbank or Preferred Lender designation from the SBA for this program as it can expedite the process and assures that you’re working with an experienced lender.

Credit Insurance on foreign receivables is when an exporter purchases protection against non-payment of its foreign receivables from Eximbank or a private insurance company. Normally, banks don’t allow the foreign accounts receivable to be included in a company’s borrowing base because of the perceived heightened risk when buyers are located in a foreign country.

With insurance, an exporter has the opportunity to offer longer repayment terms. For example, a company, that typically offers no more than 60-day terms to its customers, sees its competitors in foreign markets offering 120-day terms. With export credit insurance, the exporter is able to take the risk of longer terms that will enable it to be more competitive. Also, if it assigns the insurance policy to its bank, the bank can advance against those receivables, improving cash flow.

For larger export sales, buyers in higher interest rate countries often look for some form of extended payment terms. Typically referred to as buyer financing, the exporter can decline and lose the sale, offer unprotected terms or use a form of insurance to protect its medium term receivable. The U.S. government supports such sales with programs called Medium Term Loan Guarantees. A bank is willing to participate because repayment is guaranteed by the U.S. government. The exporter benefits because it satisfies what the buyer needs and receives payment from the bank almost immediately after shipping its product. While there are restrictions, successful exporters have used such programs for 70 years.

What’s important to know about using export programs like these?

You don’t have to go it alone. Your banker is an advocate who can help you find the right resources as you set up your export program and understand the advantages and disadvantages of available payment methods.

Contacting your banker early in the process, as you’re developing your business plan and researching markets, will shorten your learning curve and help you become successful sooner. Banks can also direct you to government resources, which have additional tools available to support exporters as they expand into new markets. Reach out to your bank now, even if you’re just thinking about exporting overseas, because your banker will be happy to share his or her expertise.

Art Rice is vice president and manager of International Operations and Product Management at FirstMerit Bank. Reach him at (330) 384-7178 or

Frank Pak is vice president, International Division at FirstMerit Bank. Reach him at (216) 317-7399 or

Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by FirstMerit Bank

Thursday, 27 February 2014 22:03

How to take your VoIP conversion at your own pace

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Overhauling an office phone system is often a necessary part of growing, improving and updating an organization’s technology. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a common upgrade that offers a variety of options to fit a business’ needs, whether it has a small, medium or large employee base.

Each VoIP system can be custom built to fit the specific requirements of a company, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director of A specific VoIP product is chosen based on the company’s specific needs, and its implementation is ramped up in a way that’s manageable.

“When you’re talking about your phone system, it can be pretty painful when you don’t know what to expect,” Desberg says. This is why companies have the option of switching everything over at once, or taking a step-by-step approach when switching to VoIP.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to examine the ways companies can integrate VoIP.

When converting to VoIP, is there one best way to transition or are there options?

Each VoIP-based phone system is meant to work uniquely. Some companies don’t know what’s available out there, and really aren’t ready to jump in with both feet to a brand new phone system and service provider. If a company knows that over the next few years they’re going to grow, they’re going to change, or they’re going to move, then there are specific opportunities that arise.

When does it make sense to use a step-by-step approach?

Unlike traditional telephone service, a step-by-step approach can be used as opposed to transitioning everything when improving communications using VoIP. In many situations, dial tone from traditional telephone providers can be duplicated and moved to the VoIP realm. It’s then offered back in a cost-effective way.

If a company is planning to move to a new facility it is a great opportunity to start down the path of new technology. The organization can take the phone numbers that it currently has and move them to VoIP services. Then in the new location, deploy what looks like traditional phones. When the company is ready, it can retire its old phone system and slowly step completely into VoIP. It eases the process for the company and its employees.

Remote workers or remote offices that are using separate phone systems raise more opportunity to investigate VoIP options. Those multiple environments can be brought together so that they look and operate like a single phone service. It can be a mix-and-match environment, offices and workers can be spread out across the country, deploy individual phones and systems for them while the main office is still working off of the traditional phone configuration.

In what circumstances is it better to switch all at once?

When a company is growing, often its phone system is something that’s an afterthought. Either the current phone system can’t handle more employees, the voicemail is always full or the technology is in need of updating. A good option at that point is to move to a platform that doesn’t have those limitations. Hosted VoIP, where all services and all phones are provided, has basically unlimited growth potential. So there is a great opportunity for a company to avoid continuously reinvesting in old technology.

How can a company determine what’s best for its situation?

The best and most important part of the process is planning. It’s based on what a company needs going forward. Not only is the company preparing for new hardware, but also new expectations on the IT staff and the network itself. It’s important to make sure that the VoIP provider offers training as part of its service. And financially, a company has to make sure that it is a good way to go and a good investment.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Reach him at

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by

The JOBS Act, passed in 2012, changed rules to make it easier for small businesses to secure funding from investors.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission actually has three initiatives related to the JOBS Act. Crowdfunding has received most of the attention, but the SEC also amended Regulation D to allow small businesses to use general advertising and offers the Regulation A option, which is sort of a mini registration,” says James S. Hogg, a partner at Brouse McDowell.

Smart Business spoke with Hogg about how these JOBS Act options work and what they offer small businesses looking to raise funds.

What has changed with the amendment to Regulation D?

In the past, a private placement had to be done without general advertising, so you would either use a broker to find wealthy investors or you would find them; it was more or less word of mouth. Once you found investors, you would do a conventional private placement.

According to the SEC, $900 billion was raised that way in 2012. Of that, about $8 billion was raised in offerings of less than $5 million each. The amended regulations are intended to allow more small businesses to participate by expanding the pool of investors they can reach. But when you use general solicitation — Internet, newspapers, radio — you can only sell to accredited investors and there are more rigorous procedures to follow to ensure buyers are accredited.

To be accredited, an investor must have a net worth of $1 million or annual income of $200,000. You can still raise funds the old way under Regulation D, which allows for up to 35 non-accredited investors and an unlimited number of accredited investors. But if you use general solicitation, all investors must be accredited.

How can small businesses use crowdfunding?

Nothing is set until the SEC adopts final rules, but based on the proposal, companies are limited to raising $1 million in a 12-month period.

Crowdfunding has hit a couple of snags. One involves regulation; the proposal doesn’t allow for state regulation and some regulators would like to see more safeguards, while other people want to get money to small businesses as quickly as possible.

The SEC proposal requires use of a funding portal such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo and limits purchasers — a person with net worth of less than $100,000 can’t spend more than $2,000 or 5 percent of their net worth a year, and someone with a net worth of more than $100,000 is restricted to 10 percent of their net worth.

Crowdfunding would also require annual reports, although they would be basic — including financial statements that may have to be reviewed by a CPA firm, and if the amount raised was more than $500,000, you would also need an audit. As proposed, the rules might make crowdfunding unattractive. I’m sure that’s part of the comments the SEC is wrestling with.

What is happening with Regulation A offerings?

Historically, if you did a Regulation A offering, which is like a mini registration, it would not be given an exemption from state registration. As a result, only 0.2 percent of offerings under $5 million used Regulation A.

The SEC has made it a two-tier system by adding a new rule that allows an exemption from state securities law registration. You can still raise money the old way, but if you elect to do so under the new rule, there are reporting requirements in return for the state law exemption. The maximum amount that can be raised would also increase from $5 million to $50 million.

This is still in the proposal stage, and comments are being accepted through March 24.

How do businesses decide what route to take?

If you’re really small and raising funds entirely in Ohio, you can sell to up to 10 investors without any filings, but make sure you meet the requirements for this exemption. Most companies with larger offerings will probably continue to opt for Regulation D, but when the regulations are finalized they may consider crowdfunding or Regulation A if those are exempt from state securities registration.

James S. Hogg is a partner at Brouse McDowell. Reach him at (330) 434-4106 or

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Brouse McDowell

Friday, 28 February 2014 02:06

Are you and your employees ready for retirement?

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Employers are trying to encourage their employees to save more for retirement, but the numbers aren’t in plan sponsors’ favor. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 census, 73 percent of our population will struggle financially during retirement.
Why are employers so interested in employee plan participation? Discrimination testing plan sponsors must go through has encouraged the drive to make sure participation is adequate for non-highly compensated employees. If participation and deferral percentages are low for non-highly compensated employees, highly compensated employees can’t defer the maximum contribution amount, which leads to refunds at the end of the year.

“To make a plan financially healthy for all employees, good participation is needed across the board,” says Linda A. Cahill, a principal at Benefits Resource Group.

Smart Business spoke with Cahill about ensuring you have adequate participation in your retirement plan to maximize its impact for all employees.

How does discrimination testing affect employer plan participation levels?

Although individual situations can vary, the general rule of thumb for discrimination testing is that highly compensated employees (HCE) are only able to contribute about 2 percent more than the average of the non-highly compensated employees (NHCE). For instance, if a company’s average HCE is deferring 7 percent and the NHCEs were only deferring 4 percent, it’s possible that the company could fail the discrimination test and the HCEs would be given refunds. These refunds can end up costing HCEs thousands in potential retirement savings, so it’s important for a company to encourage plan participation among all employees.

How can employers boost plan participation?

Employers are adding plan design features such as automatic enrollment to boost engagement. Survey data shows that about 47 percent of all plans have an automatic enrollment feature, and 89 percent of those employers use auto enrollment for new hires. This automatic enrollment is also being used to bring in nonparticipants, allowing employers to ‘refresh’ enrollment.

Many plans have increased their automatic enrollment amount from 3 to 6 percent. In 2010, 7 percent of all plans used 6 percent contribution. Now it’s 10 percent. That’s the direction things are headed.

What aren’t more employees participating in or saving enough for retirement?

It’s a lack of education and communication regarding the importance of saving and starting early. Fortunately, there’s been an increase in communication to employees regarding retirement plans. More than half of plan sponsors surveyed indicated they’ve increased their employee communication. This takes the form of group and one-on-one sessions. Some are integrating a retirement income calculator in these sessions to project if an employee is on track to meet his or her retirement goals.

Technology is the key to driving participation, but it’s underused because of a lack of communication and education. There are tools that can dial-up deferral or contribution levels and determine the outcome, but participants must be made aware of these in order for them to be useful.

How can employers help employees know if they’ll meet their retirement goals?

Employees should sign up on the Social Security Administration’s My Social Security ( site to determine their estimated benefits and double-check salary data. Using that information with current account balances and a retirement income calculator gives a pretty good estimate of what income a person has for retirement.

It’s good to have an annual review with the plan sponsor to determine if employees are participating, if they’re invested appropriately or if they are paying attention to details, because with a 401(k), participants are responsible for their own retirement outcome. They need to look to make sure it’s doing what they want it to accomplish.

People spend hours planning their vacations, but don’t spend the same amount of time planning their retirement, which is potentially the longest vacation one will ever take. Get people to think about these things today rather than allowing them to continue to delay planning until it’s too late.

Linda A. Cahill is a principal at Benefits Resource Group. Reach her at (216) 393-1812 or

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by Benefits Resource Group

Thursday, 27 February 2014 20:15

How the ACA could change Ohio workers’ compensation

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Although it appears the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not intended to affect the workers’ compensation system, it may influence it. Ohio may be less likely to experience some of the hypothetical outcomes discussed for other states, but there is a correlation and potential impact.

Smart Business spoke with David D. Kessler, medical director at CompManagement Health Systems, about how the ACA might affect workers’ compensation.

What aspects of the ACA could be used in the workers’ compensation system?

An important concept with the ACA is the reference to Accountable Care Organizations, which are groups of health care providers who coordinate the care given to their patients. This requires sharing information for informed decision-making among stakeholders.

Workers’ compensation has many moving parts that involve multiple interested parties, creating variable goals. These have the potential to introduce inefficient processes, escalating costs and compromising care for injured workers. Sharing clinical information between parties helps with enhanced decision-making and permits the use of evidence-based best practices. Coordination on this level should reduce duplication of services, potentially reduce medical errors and enhance recovery from an injury, permitting a timely and safe return to work.

It is generally accepted that fee-for-service payment methodology has a tendency to increase utilization for optimizing provider revenues. Although a higher frequency of care in the acute phase may increase initial costs, it can mean achieving long-term goals and better outcomes, lowering costs to employers.

How could the ACA’s expanded benefits affect workers’ compensation?

The ACA may result in healthier employee groups because it covers those who previously had no health care benefits, allowing them to address primary health care needs. A healthier employee population should have lower risks for claim frequency or severity, reducing associated costs from disability and medical care post-injury. Although employers may fear increased exposure for filing claims or prolonged use of services initially, this may lessen when other health care options are offered. However, high deductibles or co-pays may create financial stress to the beneficiary, discouraging greater use of health insurance.

Another common situation in workers’ compensation is when an employee’s current health status or pre-existing condition prolongs recovery and requires additional care, successively producing greater costs. Accurate diagnosis and complete records help the Managed Care Organization (MCO) determine if the requested services are necessary for treatment in a claim. Engagement and personal responsibility from the individual through accessing available health care that may be external to workers’ compensation can help decrease barriers affecting response to treatment.

How might the ACA affect the kind of care provided through workers’ compensation?

Another component of the ACA that affects the workers’ compensation arena is the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which is designed to improve health care delivery and outcomes. In a comparable process, MCOs in Ohio are required to use Official Disability Guidelines (ODG), which are a meta-analysis of evidence-based protocols that serve as the basis for evidence-based care collaboration. When providers are reluctant to cooperate and discuss evidence-based practices, it impedes achieving ideal outcomes. Utilization management of requested services from the MCO industry is enriched through use of tools such as ODG, and should serve as an educational opportunity for informed decision-making for injured workers, employers and providers. PCORI’s success could facilitate applicable use in the workers’ compensation system.

Although the ACA may not directly impact Ohio workers’ compensation, its focus on the interactive communication of evidence-based medicine for informed decision-making, regardless of the payer or administrative organization, should be the guiding message driving quality, cost-effective, patient-centered care.

David D. Kessler, DC, MHA, CHCQM is Medical Director at CompManagement Health Systems. Reach him at (614) 760-1788 or

Insights Workers’ Compensation is brought to you by CompManagement Health Systems

Thursday, 27 February 2014 19:17

How companies can improve security of sensitive data

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It’s difficult to protect your data when you don’t know where it is and who has access.

“Most companies don’t go through a data classification process. The No. 1 thing businesses can do to protect their data is to know where it is and the value it has,” says Joe Compton, CISSP, CISA, a principal with the Skoda Minotti Risk Advisory Services Group.

Smart Business spoke with Compton about actions companies can take to improve information security.

How do you go about finding and classifying data?

There are many different models you can use, including a simple checklist of three things:

Does the data contain private information?

Should this information be restricted to a limited number of people within the organization and from outside vendors?

Is it critical to the business? Would losing it negatively impact you or stop you from running your company?

If the data doesn’t fit under any of those areas, it would be considered an unprotected asset or unimportant data.

But the model can get complex; there could be 13 or 14 categories used to organize your information. The point is to develop a data classification scheme so you can protect it. You don’t want to provide the same protection for all data if it isn’t necessary.

After data has been classified, what’s the next step?

Once you know the data you have and its location, you need to establish controls. Most companies don’t have a disciplined approach to implementing security controls.

A good source for best practices is the PCI Security Standards Council, which offers downloads that provide a detailed list of controls that should be placed around sensitive data. In the case of PCI, it deals with credit card data. Most businesses handle some sort of credit card data, but even if you don’t, you could still adopt the same standards the PCI sets for credit cards and apply it to your sensitive information.

By doing so, you’ll have a very disciplined and defined approach to protecting critical data sets in terms of organized controls. There’s also a defined testing procedure you could follow on a regular basis to ensure those controls are working.

Controls can be as simple as firewalls or segregation of duties in terms of who has access to the data. It could involve logging access to databases and keeping a record of who works with data and where it is going. PCI has a list of 12 defined areas that it has built controls around that are appropriate for any business or any data set.

When you know what and where your data is and have a defined control set, then you need to address a data loss prevention (DLP) solution.

What are some examples of solutions, and how expensive are they?

DLP solutions range from the very expensive to relatively inexpensive.

For instance, if you run applications like SAP, Oracle financial, Microsoft Great Plains or various accounting systems, they have controls built into the software to prevent information from flowing out along with automatic tracking. But what happens when that data is moved off the system to a spreadsheet or mobile device? You can set policies prohibiting that, but that’s impractical.

You want to enable people to access the data, while keeping it secure. What DLP does is make sure data is appropriately encrypted. DLP software will look inside files and, if it sees data patterns that are sensitive, will force encryption before releasing that information to a device. It will also take inventory of what was on a device. If a device that was properly encrypted is lost or compromised, you can remotely wipe it through mobile management.

There are solutions that cost a fortune, and others that cost as little as $14 per month, per user. Some are preventative — they will notify you if a mobile media device is connected to a computer and catalogue the data moved over so you know what was on the device if it gets lost.

But the first step toward a solution is identifying your data. You’ll never reach the point of implementing a solution until you know what data you have and where it resides.


Joe Compton, CISSP, CISA is a Principal with Skoda Minotti Risk Advisory Services Group. Reach him at (440) 449-6800


Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by Skoda Minotti

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 21:42

How do you know when it’s the right time to sell?

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As a rule, you make money in real estate when you buy, not when you sell.

With that said, it’s common for an owner not to know when to sell, says Joseph V. Barna, SIOR, a principal at Cushman & Wakefield/CRESCO Real Estate. The property owner needs to weigh market conditions, along with internal factors like occupancy, cash flow and the condition of the building.

“You don’t want to wait until you’re in trouble, because there are sophisticated buyers out there,” Barna says. “The buyers know you’re in trouble and that sooner or later the building is going to go back to the bank, where they can buy it at a discount. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.”

Smart Business spoke with Barna about when to put your property on the market.

How do owners get into trouble with commercial property?

Many people purchased properties when the market was robust, buildings were at a premium and rents were high. They’ve seen values decrease 10 to 30 percent and rents decreased or stayed flat, and now face a balloon payment that’s more than the building’s worth. Let’s say they paid $1 million and put 20 percent down, but when the note is up and principal is due, the property is reappraised at $700,000. The lender might finance 80 percent of the $700,000 and the owner will need to invest additional cash to consummate the transaction.

Another problem is when you start to have vacancies and cash flow dries up, especially if you’re carrying a mortgage. Then, not only do you have to find a new tenant, you’ll also need to pay for the carry plus improvements and related fees.

Owners procrastinate thinking they will get a tenant or the market will turn, but nothing happens quickly in real estate, so they keep digging themselves a deeper hole. In some cases, they give the keys back to the bank and walk away if lucky enough to have a non-recourse mortgage, rather than continue to feed an unprofitable investment.

What’s a better way to handle a property?
Instead of waiting until you’re in a negative position, it makes sense to evaluate how that property is positioned and possibly bring it to market sooner — especially if you foresee a vacancy issue, capital improvements or refinancing situation. If you have a small or midsize portfolio, you don’t want to be in a bind with major vacancies and limited cash flow.

It’s not uncommon for a building to sit vacant for years. Therefore, if you sense you could be at risk you should bring the property to market and have time to find that ‘highest and best’ user or investor. Again, it goes back to ensuring you don’t overpay when you buy, while understanding the functionality and need in the market for that specific property type.

How can a sale-leaseback be a tool for business owners who own their property?
A sale-leaseback allows owners to sell their property while retaining the benefits of tenancy through a long-term lease. This increasingly utilized tool allows owners to use their essential real estate without tying up large sums of debt and equity capital.

It is possible to exceed market values depending upon the credit of the seller and the term of the lease. A sale-leaseback is also a logical solution to a short- or long-term exit strategy. Other reasons why owners utilize this tool include paying down debt, making an acquisition and reallocating capital in more productive uses, as well as estate planning.

How can a broker help?
If you are considering selling your property, it is important to understand who is the ‘highest and best’ potential buyer no matter if it’s a user or investment sale. You need to know the demand of your specific product type, market conditions, most effective manner to position the product and what needs to take place to maximize value.

By consulting with a broker, you’re not committing to anything; you’re doing your due diligence and getting questions answered. Gathering all the facts early will help you make the right decision at the right time.


Joseph V. Barna, SIOR, is a principal at CRESCO. Reach him at (216) 525-1469 or

Insights Real Estate is brought to you by CRESCO


When a breakdown happens in your production line, you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get things running again. What business leader hasn’t been there? And, if it hasn’t happened to your production line, maybe your computer system has crashed or some other essential aspect of your business. When these breakdowns happen, you’re ready to call anyone who can fix it.

Consider this story, told by former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano at a recent Men’s Fellowship Group in Westlake that wanted to hear his messages of inspiration — and connection.


A parable for the office

One day, a business owner’s production line breaks down. For an hour and a half he can’t get a hold of anyone to get the equipment repaired. And as we all know too well, time is money. While the business owner is frantically searching for help, a guy with a small hammer is sitting on a chair nearby claiming he can fix it. The owner says to himself, “This guy doesn’t have both oars in the water. What does he mean he can fix it? Forget it!”

Another hour goes by and the owner has now become so frustrated, he tells the man with the hammer, “Go ahead and fix it.” So the guy with the hammer gets up, takes aim, makes a sharp rap and everything is instantly in working order! The owner is ecstatic; he can’t believe the man fixed the machinery so quickly and asks how much he owes him. The guy says, “You owe me $1,000.” The owner can’t believe his ears, “A thousand dollars? It only took you five seconds!”

The man with the hammer replies, “That’s right. I’m going to charge you $1 for hitting the bolt, but $999 for hitting the right bolt.”

The lesson — making connections is important.

“Isn’t that what we are all trying to do every single day — connect?” Rutigliano says.

After all, the man with the hammer had the skill, but he and the owner had no connection.


People skills are a priority

It’s been said that the higher you go in business, the more your people skills are important and the less your technical skills matter. So as you climb the ladder, remember that it is more about relating to people than it is about clearing off your desk.

Soft skills shouldn’t get such short shrift. Some leaders may think it’s a weakness to show emotion toward the workforce. They simply need to realize the importance of regularly making a one-on-one connection that will build and help the organization achieve significant goals.

But who is that leader who will connect with you personally?

“For all of us, there is that one guy, that one person who sometime in your life is able to connect with you and get you on the right path,” Rutigliano says. For the former coach, who makes it known he has accepted Christ as his personal savior, focusing on one’s self will never reveal life’s purpose.

“It is in Christ that we find who we are, what we are and what we are living for,” he says. “The elemental purpose for our being on earth is to bring others to Christ. You make a living by what you earn, but you make a life by what you give to others.”

And giving to others means connecting to people — their values, the causes they support, their likes and dislikes, goals and desires, friends and families, their boundaries — on a human level. It’s as simple as that.

Dennis Seeds is managing editor of Smart Business Cleveland. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Cleveland, please send an email to

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All businesses today have to weather the good times and bad times. How you approach managing up and down cycles has a direct impact on employee morale, productivity, retention and your bottom line.

Employees are the heart of any vibrant, continuously improving organization. When sales and profits are down, they worry about job security and competition. That’s when management should be at its creative best, using a high level of communication and motivational tools to shore up morale and keep productivity elevated.

There are a number of proactive steps you can take to unify your team, boost employee morale and instill pride and loyalty in your company, which will pay dividends in both good and bad business cycles. Key elements include creative thinking and good communication throughout your organization.

■  Instill accountability. In a culture of accountability, employees take initiative. Many people think of accountability only when something goes wrong, but it has far broader implications. People who have a high level of personal accountability take initiative to ensure the success of a project, issue or action. They will provide early warning of potential problems and take action to resolve an issue.

Management needs to keep an eye out for employees who are accountable and reward them accordingly.

■  Cross-training the workforce. Training is a win-win because it’s proof that your company will invest time and resources to teach employees new skills while providing the company a more flexible workforce. You can cross-train both factory and office personnel.

For example, paint line workers can be cross-trained to support shipping and receiving or assembly cells. In an office environment, customer service people can be trained to monitor and reply to social media channels, as well as learn to do outbound telemarketing when in-bound calls slowdown.

■  Use frequent top-down communication. Frequent communication from the top is essential for an innovative, flexible workforce, and it is especially important when a business cycle is down.

To the extent that company ownership will allow, share financial or sales performance results on a quarterly basis and let your workforce know what new initiatives are being undertaken to increase sales, improve customer service and streamline operations.

■  Use frequent two-way communication. Hold regular meetings by department and be part of give-and-take sessions to learn what your employees are thinking and the ideas that they have to make improvements. Commit to better and more frequent one-on-one dialogue with staff members.

Provide ample opportunity for feedback and innovative ideas for improvement. Conduct job satisfaction surveys at least twice a year to help measure the results of your employee relations programs.

■  Reward initiative. It’s important to reward those who step up and take on more responsibility. Depending on the culture of your company, rewards can take many forms, from employee-of-the-month programs and monetary rewards for good ideas, to preferred parking spots and paid community service days when employees can volunteer for charitable causes and be paid by your company for a workday.

Your business is only as strong as your employees. Ultimately, if you build a culture of accountability, do a good job of communicating, give employees the opportunity to take initiative, reward them for their efforts and instill the company’s core values throughout your organization, everyone will reap the rewards no matter what the economic climate.

Andrew L. Outcalt is president of The Louis Berkman Work Products Co., which includes Meyer Products and Swenson Products. Both companies are vertically integrated manufacturers of snow and ice control equipment sold around the world. For more information, visit or