The proliferation of incubators literally, gestation organizations that help a fledgling start-up with affordable space, technology, management, financing, lab equipment and other items the business otherwise couldnt afford has helped hatch thousands of dot-coms worldwide at speeds unheard of under conventional business models.
Locally, there are several incubators, with more popping up seemingly every day. Here are a few of the better-known ones and a few upstarts youll be hearing more from in the future:
Enterprise Development Inc.
Enterprise Development Inc. is the most well-known and well-developed incubator in Northeast Ohio. EDI is the parent organization that manages the Edison Technology Incubator (ETI), BioEnterprise and the Lewis Incubator for Technology (LIFT). The organization houses more than 30 fledgling companies in four locations and provides business assistance to tenants and clients, explains Diann Rucki, EDI president.
ETI is designed for new and emerging technology-based businesses. BioEnterprise provides laboratory and office space for early stage biomedical device, biotechnology and health-care related start-ups. LIFT is aimed at companies with the potential to incorporate technology and know-how developed by NASAs Glen Research Center. Among EDIs graduates are Athersys, Gliatech and Netgenics.
Theres a lot of start-up activity in Northeast Ohio, Rucki says. EDI is designed to help nurture companies along by providing support they otherwise would not be able to get.
Lorain County Community College
Hand it to Lorain County Community College president Roy Church for recognizing where to focus the future of education and acting upon it. LCCC broke ground in April on its new 2,000-square-foot incubator, which will house up to four start-up computer software, Web design and e-commerce companies.
The incubator will leverage LCCCs educational facilities while complementing the colleges $6 million Engineering, Training and Development Center. It is slated to open in 2001 and is part of LCCCs comprehensive plan to grow dot-com companies locally, as well as raise the regions technological awareness by developing an education, business and technology partnership.
Working from a collaboration of the legal, accounting, consulting and Web communities, the appropriately named incubator Hatchbox Inc. hung out its shingle in Fairlawn earlier this year. Hatchboxs goal is to help fledgling e-commerce businesses develop into mature companies through a steady feeding of legal, accounting and marketing expertise.
Founded by Howard Cleveland, owner of Digital Day (formerly Mozes Cleveland & Co.), Hatchboxs other partners are Arthur Andersen LLP and Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff LLP.
John Carroll University
Not one to be left behind in the progressive world of educational incubators, John Carroll University in March announced plans to join the fray with its own $60 million, 190,000-square-foot science center. Located within that massive building will be a 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot incubator designed as laboratory space for rent by local businesses as a way to lower overhead costs on basic research.
John Carroll management hopes to leverage educational research undertaken by its students and professors, and envisions the incubator as an opportunity to nurture some of those ideas into full-fledged start-up businesses.
How to reach: EDI, (216) 229-9445; LCCC, (800) 995-LCCC; Hatchbox, (330) 528-0029; John Carroll University, (216) 397-1886
Dustin Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN.
Goals help you lead a balanced life by keeping you focused on what is important to you, your family and your business, says Donald Fletcher, president of May International, a Chicago-based management consulting firm. Goals aid in planning, development and help you improve performance within your business.
Here are some tips Fletcher says may help you identify and set realistic goals for you and your business:
- Make sure your goals reflect your companys values or mission statement.
- Be creative and open your mind to new possibilities and out-of-the-box thinking.
- Make your goals measurable.
- Make your goals attainable and appropriate.
- Prioritize goals as to their importance.
- Be specific and dont generalize.
- Consider relationships and how they will be affected.
- Challenge yourself to achieve your goals. Dont settle for the easy ones.
Marriott had high turnover, in part because many of its employees lacked basic work ethics and an understanding of its expectations.
So in 1991, the company set out to combat the problem by launching Pathways to Independence, a program designed to train welfare recipients and people with disabilities for full-time jobs. In essence, Marriott created its own work force.
The pilot program began in Atlanta, and two years ago, Marriott expanded the venture into Cleveland. Approximately 30,000 welfare recipients live in Cuyahoga County, and many will lose their benefits in October due to national welfare reform. And, with the tight labor market locally, theres no question that employers are seeking to expand the available worker pool.
Since June 1998, approximately 200 people have graduated from the program, which involves 60 hours in the classroom and 180 hours on the job, explains Ursula Hamrick, Pathways to Independence coordinator at Cleveland Marriott Downtown. For six weeks, participants receive no pay as theyre taught basic skills such as dependability, positive work attitudes, how to show a willingness to work hard and appropriate dress and behavior on the job. And because Marriotts business is hospitality, Hamrick emphasizes two other skills: Team effort to achieve a common goal and the ability to treat customers in a pleasant manner.
According to Fred Kramer, director of community employment and training at Marriott corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C., it costs between $5,000 and $6,000 to train one Pathways associate. The companys found underwriters to help defray the costs in nonprofit partners such as the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, which covers half the tab. Nationally, Pathways has 2,300 graduates and operates in 40 cities.
Marriott places most of its graduates in housekeeping, laundry or guest services three of the jobs it has the most difficulty filling, explains Hetz Wochholz, general manager for Marriott Lodging in Greater Cleveland.
Wochholz says the program has not only benefited the company, but also the community.
Its the best thing we do, he says. In many businesses, youre not given the opportunity to do the right thing for people. Pathways helps us to touch the softer side of business.
Pathways graduates require more time to learn the job and take on a full workload, says Wochholz, but theres a greater payoff in the end, as retention rates among graduates are higher than those for conventional hires. How to reach: Cleveland Marriott Downtown, (216) 696-9200; Marriott Corp., (800) 638-8108
Susan Brachna is a Shaker Heights-based free-lance journalist.
If youre still waiting to see how the Internet will truly affect your industry before buying into the promised e-revolution, there is a good chance youre quickly falling behind the pack.
Even as you read these words, there are companies trying to figure out how to do what you do, only better, and plan to use the rapidly evolving connected economy to chip away at your customer base.
That should be a chilling prospect for business owners still holding onto a wait-and-see attitude toward the Internet. Neil Goldman, a Senior Manager of High Growth Consulting for Ernst & Young, spends much of his time convincing business owners, especially old-line manufacturers, that the Internet isnt just for multimillion dot-coms anymore.
In fact, striking early could be the engine that drives even the most traditional companies to new levels of growth.
Unless youre gearing up to conduct at least some of your business this way, youre going to be left in the dust, says Goldman, who promises that the true business Internet revolution has yet to hit its stride. When it happens, youre not going to have the luxury of six months to a year to figure it out.
Reluctance to embrace the Net is likely fueled by the fact that doing so means going much deeper than simply placing a product catalog on the Web. The bottom line is that the Internet can revolutionize every aspect of your business, from supply chain management to customer service. That can be an intimidating, if not frightening, prospect for the uninitiated.
So many people I talk to are overwhelmed by the clutter, Goldman says. They get hit by so many assertions and so many frameworks from so many directions. Its difficult to continue to run a business, run it profitably and also get your arms around whats really going on here.
It is that mindset that makes people reluctant to integrate the Web into their everyday business process, but as Goldman says, this is no time to flinch. For wary business owners still hashing out what role their companies will play in the inevitable digital future, Goldman offers a few pieces of advice.
Realize that the rules have changed
The question is no longer whether the Internet will change business. Its already happened. Once you embrace that fact, it becomes a little easier to think about how you can start using the Net to improve your business.
Executives must adopt the paradigm that the Internet economy has changed, not is changing or will change, but has already changed, the operating rules, says Goldman.
Reshape your business model
Merging the Internet with your business doesnt mean simply dumping money into technology upgrades. It means looking at how the connectivity can improve existing relationships with your customers, suppliers and employees.
Any time you undertake a transformation like this for a business, its not just about what the MIS department does, says Goldman. It impacts how top management communicates their vision and sets direction and negotiates their needs with customers and suppliers.
The key is to make sure that your business strategy and your Internet strategy are wound tightly around each other. That may mean restructuring your business model to some degree.
You need to make sure that your e-strategy is part and parcel of your overall business strategy and vice versa, and that you are proactively building the capabilities both technically as well as operationally, explains Goldman. You need to connect up in a way that is much less a way to create a competitive advantage than it is simple survival.
Map your competitors, your trading partners and yourself
While youre busy adapting your business to this new economy, dont forget that your competitors and suppliers are doing the same. Before investing lots of time or money in your companys Internet strategy, look to see where other players in your industry, especially the people you deal with on a regular basis, are placing their bets.
Map yourself, your competitors and your trading partners, says Goldman. When I say trading partners, I mean both historical and new threats. Map them across how they are approaching new marketplaces, connecting with their customers, rebuilding their supply chain into a Web and supporting their employees.
Decide what role your business will play
Even after spending a great deal of time drafting an Internet strategy, Goldman says many business owners still suffer from analysis paralysis. All the research in the world isnt going to do you much good if you fail to act.
Think waiting another six months would be a better plan? Goldman advises starting now and modifying your Internet initiatives as you go.
If you wait six months to make your first decision in this space, you wont be as smart as if you had made several decisions over the same six months, made some mistakes, but made some right moves as well, he says.
Goldman suggests investing in several Internet initiatives and moving forward with them after securing the help of some sort of business adviser.
Part of your strategy need to be developing a small portfolio of initiatives, he says. No different than (the fact that) anyone whos investing in dot-coms is not going to buy just one they think is going to be a high flyer, theyre going to buy several.
Some of their stock prices may go down, but there are going to be one or two that do really well, and youre going to succeed.
How to reach: Ernst & Young LLP, www.ey.com
Jim Vickers (email@example.com) is an associate editor at SBN.
When the relationship is strong, the prospect wants to do business with you rather than has to do business with you. And the person who wants to do business with you can justify just about anything.
1. Learn and use the strategy of win-win. As a salesperson, its OK for you to win; just make sure your customer is also a winner. Building trust means never taking unfair advantage of a customer.
2. Mirror your behavior. Using body language is one of the easiest and most effective methods of gaining and maintaining rapport. When you mirror someone, you are reflecting his or her posture, positioning your body in a way that is similar to that of your prospect. While you are not striving for an exact mirror image, an observer would notice similarities.
3. Pace yourself to fit the customer. Speak at the same pace as the other person. Usually people who naturally speak quickly have little problem slowing down. Sometimes people who are naturally slow-paced may find it a challenge to comfortably speed up their pace, particularly for prolonged periods of time.
4. Find the common ground. Seek ways to establish common areas of interest and build rapport with the prospect. Look for signs of hobbies or interests. Take note of pictures, trophies, awards, educational background, etc. Mention people you know in common.
Everybody talks about the weather, their kids or sports, and thats the problem. Its trite and does nothing to establish rapport. Try to be a bit more creative.
5. What you dont talk about, ever. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, sex, racial matters, ethnic jokes, dirty jokes and anything else than can inflame. You never know which side the prospect is rooting for, and truthfully, its no ones business.
6. Handle problems quickly. If a problem arises, deal with it in promptly. The longer something is wrong, the more the customer thinks about it. If the customer is in the wrong and your company did nothing wrong, handle the matter in a face-saving way for the customer. Making demeaning remarks about the customer or an employee can destroy in seconds a relationship that may have taken weeks or months to build. Good diplomacy always pays off.
7. Use industry slang only if youre sure. If you sell to a particular field, make sure you learn and speak the language. However, be cautious when using industry or business slang with prospects who are unfamiliar with the terms. They may take offense if they feel you are talking over their heads or trying to dazzle them with jargon.
If you embarrass them because they dont understand what you are talking about, you wont be building rapport, youll be alienating them. If theyre busy trying to figure out what a term means, they could miss important parts of your presentation. And what if you use terms incorrectly? You look like a show-off and a fool and can forget about building credibility.
8. Dont waste peoples time. Some salespeople, the ones who hate to prospect, will visit customers without good reason, just to build the relationship.
Your customers have a business to run, and while some may not say it, they will resent you dropping in just to kill time or for things that could be handled with a phone call or e-mail. Even worse is when a salesperson is told that the boss is busy, so he or she starts to see how things are going with the employees, which slows them down in doing their jobs.
Ted Tate is author of Just Sell It, Wiley Publishing, NY, and makes in-house sales and business training presentations to companies. He can be reached at (440) 257-7520.
My father, who ran a masonry contracting firm, used to say that when workers packed up before it was time to go, they had a hand in his pocket. The last 20 to 30 minutes of the day could very well be the difference between making a profit and losing money. So what is happening to the work ethic? And as leaders of our firms, is there any way to get it back?
There have been advances in worker productivity, but that hasnt stopped the inefficiencies inherent in our companies. The first question we might ask is why we as a society are not giving our best. Here are some reasons to consider:
Negative attitudes. We all have negative situations and hardships that could dampen our spirit to give our all.
Whats in it for me? Without reason and purpose, its difficult to get motivated. We need to know why.
Nobody else is giving their best, why should I? Apathetic individuals around us can make giving our best effort feel unjust.
No direction or challenge. If we do not understand the higher purpose for our activity and/or we are not mentally stimulated and challenged, we tend to get bored and performance suffers.
Not being paid enough. This is the classic story of the chicken and the egg. Paying for performance beforehand seldom results in improved value.
I cant do it my way. When we are not allowed to put our stamp on a project, we feel like an underling.
We tolerate mediocrity. If we dont challenge and inspire others to a higher level of performance, many will not reach that level, and possibly dont realize the performance they are capable of.
We want to work with our minds, not our hands. We have shifted from an agricultural to industrial to service and technological based society. Many people dont want to do manual labor because they see it as unfulfilling.
Spread between the haves and have-nots has gotten wider. Although our country has never been more prosperous, the spread in incomes from the top to the bottom has never been wider.
How do we get the work ethic back?
Identifying the reasons for the problem is the easy part. The real question is, what do we do about it? Here are some ideas to consider:
Team-oriented incentive-based compensation systems. When we give others an incentive to produce at a higher level, it spurs their creativity and desire to give their best.
Accountability, no matter how small. Put every person in charge of something. When we are given a sense of purpose, we can take pride in ownership in what we are doing.
Create a team environment. This is a process, not an event. A great way to do this is to use team meetings to express the vision for the corporation and to utilize team-building exercises to get people to interact and discuss issues with team members they do not normally interact with.
Goal setting. Utilize goal setting to learn the aspirations of others and to try to find matches and opportunities within the company that will be mutually beneficial.
Flexibility. We need to become more adaptable, to help each other out and be flexible with work schedules to accommodate expected and unexpected demands on our time, both inside and outside the work place.
Standards of expectations, not rules. We must be clear about the high standards that we have but without the burden of a lot of rules. Nobody wants to be managed. We all want the freedom to do our best.
Getting the work ethic back will not be easy. It will require us to change. We have to change the command/control format in our companies. At the individual level, we have to allow unique talents and gifts to rise to the top with the caveat of being accountable for results.
These talents and gifts need to be layered over the overall vision and objectives of the corporation and move toward a mutually beneficial end.
Mike Foti (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO of Cleveland Glass Block Inc. and president of Leadership Builders. He works with organizations and companies which want to influence and motivate their people as well as grow their businesses. He can be reached at 216-531-6363.
We hit a turning point approximately six years ago, Miragliotta says. Everythings been up since then. I had a partner that I had trusted the financial excellence and the administrative responsibilities to. Operationally, we were sound. But he was diverting the cash into another entity and he was using that cash himself. When were finally able to leverage him out, we were approximately $1 million in debt.
Bankruptcy seemed the most appropriate option. A lot of people said you need to declare bankruptcy, he recalls. But that meant I couldnt have used the name Tenable, which my clients recognized. I felt I was kind of screwed either way. I knew I had to work hard to come out of it or be destined to be a nobody. I reorganized my staff, thought about what we did, what the problem was. We started to rock and roll. We put a business plan together, a financial plan. We called all of our clients. I went out personally and put all my cards on the table to all my clients at the time and told them exactly what I was up against and said if they stuck with me that I would continue to provide the service and continue to upgrade it.
And then Miragliotta analyzed his personal situation closely. We sat down and we all said, well, how much can we live on. And thats when we started to pay ourselves just what we needed to live on. We put in as many billable hours as we could, he says.
The tactic worked. Only one customer left to move with his former partner who opened a competing business. Within three years, Tenable was out of debt.
Since then, Miragliotta has been able to rebuild the business and has even opened Tenable Entertainment and Event Management, a sister operation that provides ancillary services for events all around Northeast Ohio. The company now has a staff or 30 and Miragliotta expects gross sales to exceed $10 million this year.
His efforts have been recognized outside the industry. Miragliotta was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year program. Im pretty excited, he says. Its great for me. If I had followed all the traditional books that I read on business practices Id be out of business. I had no other choice but to continue to roll the dice, and sometimes I still do. Were in a much loftier position than weve ever been in.
Miragliotta credits his employees for the companys success. They truly are the ones that deserve it, he says of the recognition. Theyre the ones out on the front lines anymore doing this stuff. Im tickled because its my industry. How many times have you every heard of a security agency being considered for this type of a nomination? It goes to the perfumed generals out there. Where are you going to find another company where my bottom line worker is scrimping and saving to take care of his family? It validates them. They can say I work for Tenable.
And keeping that name was important to Miragliotta. The name was picked because while I was in the Marine Corps I was in a reconnaissance unit. I had been kind of military history buff, especially about Viet Nam. When President Kennedy first sent his advisors over to Viet Nam, he sent over as the special forces A team. A lot of them worked in 10-man teams and when they would sign off the radio the would sign off as ten-able. And that was a derivative of tenable. Tenable is Latin word that means a force to protect and defend. Everybody had recognized that name.
As a 19-year-old marine, Miragliotta dreamed one day of owning his own company, one with a name that would command respect. I just didnt want to abandon those principles.
How to reach: Tenable Protective Services, (216) 361-0002.
Daniel G. Jacobs (email@example.com) is senior editor of SBN.
(Ups) to Progressive Corp. The insurance giant's Web initiative is a perfect example of how to complement traditional brick and mortar operations with an e-based process. With a proven product and solid foundation to build upon, it didn't take long for Peter Lewis and Co. to make the masses forget about the company's failed E.T. advertising campaign.
(Downs) to Cleveland's biotech community. Gliatech's announced departure -- after the homegrown gel maker's sale to Baltimore-based Guilford Pharmaceuticals -- puts the brakes on what appeared to be successful efforts to keep Gliatech in town. Too bad there's no salve available to heal this wound.
(Ups) to SBN magazine. Seven Excellence in Journalism awards between our Cleveland and Columbus editions show SBN's peers acknowledge that we give our readers what they want -- and need -- every month.
(Downs) to Pony Computers' Planet Know How. The "how to" dot-com start-up burned through a large chunk of its seed capital without much to show for it besides a wake of unpaid contributors and a mediocre beta site. Ironically, one of PKH's first how tos explained how to start a successful e-business. It makes you wonder: Did the company's management team bother to read its own articles?
(Downs) to displaced tenants at Shaker Square. Sure, SBN understands -- and encourages -- real estate makeovers to spur economic growth, but Randy Ruttenberg and Adam Fishman's plans to return the square to its former glory aren't exactly making friends with merchants along the way. Should their initial attempts fail, the duo may find rough times filling space with locally based businesses.
McDonald Investments Inc.
President and CEO
Thermagon Inc. (former winner)
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLC
Cleveland chapter president
Young Presidents Organization
Primus Venture Partners
In todays fast-paced, e-world it may be surprising to learn that nearly half of the people living on this planet have never made or received a telephone call.
What is even more mind-boggling is that just a few short years ago, that number was somewhere around two-thirds of the globe.
Somewhere in between, cellular telephone technology developed to a point where people who live in parts of countries where there are no hardwire telephone lines were able to make their first phone call. In parts of India, for example, there are entire villages which have a single phone number and share a community phone that is delivered from home to home with charges billed by the minute.
In May, when America Online Chief Technology Officer William J. Raduchel visited Cleveland, he used that story to illustrate the huge technology gulf that exists today between nations and cultures, and the speed at which new technology moves once it drops to an accessible price.
The Web, he points out, is no different. By the end of this decade, Raduchel says our initial fascination with the Internet will have long faded, but the technology will be deeply entrenched in every area of our personal and professional lives.
In fact, it may not be too long until the Internet starts reaching those people who made their first telephone calls during the 1990s. If youre still among the doubtful about what the Web revolution really means, consider Raduchels take on the ways he believes the Internet will change your life and business by the end of the decade.
The price of technology will plummet.
The price of computers is dropping an average of 30 percent a year, while server and storage costs are falling about 40 percent annually. Raduchel says the next decade wont be so much about new technology as it will be about the revolutionary decline in how much it will cost to bring it to the masses.
By the year 2010, Raduchel says the cutting edge personal computer sitting on your desk today will be reduced to a $15 chip that can fit in a television remote control. Seem like an outlandish prospect? Raduchel says thats because such a steep decline in the cost of implementing new technology has no comparison throughout history. Further, people are not accustomed to such large changes.
Youre looking at pricing that many of you as business people have never experienced, he explains. Just think what the effect would be if, by the year 2010, gasoline was five cents a gallon. Changes of more than 30 percent a year are beyond our experience.
Every business will be an e-business
When e-commerce made its initial public splash in 1998, much of the national media warned that using the Internet to improve business may work well for some companies, but others would remain relatively unaffected. Today, those statements are highly questionable. In 10 years, Raduchel says, they will be totally absurd. He points out that even business owners in traditional industries like construction are already reaping rewards from using the Web to increase efficiency and grow profit margins.
Its doubling or even tripling gross margins, he says. I cannot think that there is any business totally or even partially immune to what is going on.
Common products will be Web-enabled
Everything from your refrigerator to your dishwasher to your microwave to your air conditioning system will be tied into the Web. The most compelling benefit of such a move is the fact that your appliance repairman will likely end up calling you for a service visit since technology is available today that will allow a dishwasher, for example, to predict a breakdown up to 30 days before it happens.
There are already signs of this move toward Web-enabled products. Raduchel says every major automobile manufacturer is currently dumping millions of dollars into research about how best to make money from their ultimate plan to embed an Internet browser in every vehicle that rolls off the assembly line.
All of the major automobile manufacturers are looking at cars as browsers on wheels, he says. By the end of the decade, you are likely to see automobile manufacturers making more money from selling you information in your car than selling you the car itself.
Most homes will be connected 24 hours a day
In the next 10 years, the dial-up method of reaching the Internet will be all but extinct, says Raduchel. Instead, millions of homes will have a 24-hour a day Internet connection that will allow all your Web-enabled products to communicate with the outside world. Although AOLs purchase of Time Warner may indicate Raduchel believes this future will involve plenty of cable modems, he seems to think Internet access from home will be created by several different mediums, whether it be DSL, cable or satellite.
By the end of the decade, the vast majority of houses in the U.S. will have a permanent Internet gateway in their home, says Raduchel. You will have a small box somewhere in your house that will be permanently connected.
The Internet will become invisible
Raduchel estimates by the end of the decade there will be as much media coverage and debate about the Internet as there is today about telephone systems and automobile brakes. The biggest indicator of an Internet-powered world will be the fact that you dont think of it much at all, although you will use it daily in both your business and professional life. If 10 years from now you realize the Internet is there, that indicates we have failed, says Raduchel. It has to be part and parcel to your life.
How to reach: America Online, www.aol.com.
Jim Vickers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor at SBN.