Intellectual property (IP) is one of the hottest commodities of the new economy, in which the value of new ideas for products and business models can far exceed that of hard assets.
IP provides the key competitive advantage by which companies can command a premium in their markets. But many still do not have a clear grasp of their IP portfolio, much less those of their competitors. This information is essential to all business.
Understand the components
There are four basic types of IP -- patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets. Patents protect inventions of products, processes, software and methods of doing business. Trademarks are words, names, logos, symbols, shapes, colors, sounds or scents that are uniquely associated with a product or service.
Copyright is the right to control copying of works of authorship such as literature, artwork, photographs, Web site content or source code. A trade secrets is nonpublic information that has economic value to a business, such as production processes, order fulfillment methods, product recipes or formulas, customer lists or pricing structures.
Given this scope of legal protection, nearly every business has some form of IP. You would not run a business without knowing in great detail its capital assets and inventory, yet many companies do not have a good system for cataloging and tracking their IP assets and correlating these assets to their products and services.
Valuable patents and trademarks remain stuffed away in file cabinets.
Devise a protection plan
Matching IP assets to products can be done with a database arranged according to a company's divisions or product lines, with links to corresponding IP documents, such as electronic copies of patents and trademark registrations.
Sales of protected products are a logical starting point for the valuation and accounting of IP assets. This information can also be accessed from an IP database, so that management can make informed decisions on filing and maintaining property rights worldwide. In this type of database -- accessible on a company intranet -- management personnel can view IP information and make business decisions with this key information in mind.
Even fewer companies have an accurate assessment of their competitors' IP assets, or a map of the competitive landscape which can be used to avoid infringement and identify unclaimed technology territories. Sophisticated software programs can perform this type of analysis on patents and present the data graphically.
Correct use of such systems requires legal interpretation of the scope and validity of IP rights, particularly with respect to patents.
Execution is the key
Accurate knowledge of your own and others' IP rights is essential for any company which deals with proprietary products or processes. Although the task of constructing a database of proprietary and competitor IP is formidable, the benefits are real and immediate.
This database will help:
- Clearly identify where the company has distinct competitive advantages as a result of the legal right to exclude competition, which may influence pricing and R&D decisions;
- Provide a starting point for valuation of IP as an asset class for accounting purposes;
- Identify and eliminate the cost of maintaining any obsolete IP, or identify underutilized IP which may be licensed or sold;
- Avoid costly infringement of others' rights;
- Provide a strategic roadmap for R&D and product development, and even an overall business strategy.
Once such a database is constructed, it is relatively easy to maintain and can be updated with automated search engines which retrieve electronic copies of patent, trademark and copyright documents from the Internet and enter them into the database.
The importance and value of IP demands a structured approach to its management. The days of a company's patents and trademarks being locked away in a lawyer's file cabinet are over.
Manage your IP assets. They are your legal claims to the future economy. Jim Scott is an attorney at Arter & Hadden LLP and a member of the E-Group, a multidisciplinary group of attorneys which focuses its practice on entrepreneurs, Internet, e-commerce and emerging growth companies. Reach him at (216) 696-1100.
Invacare Corp. CEO A. Malachi Mixon is anything but comfortable with his company's position as the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of wheelchairs and other home medical equipment.
It's not a surprising attitude from a man whose upstart wheelchair company in 1979 overtook the complacent industry leader at the time.
But today, since he has distanced Invacare from its competitors, one of Mixon's latest initiatives is a multi-million dollar branding campaign designed to raise Invacare's profile with the average consumer. As Mixon puts it, he wants to see the Invacare brand name "up there with Coca-Cola and Nike."
"We're the largest manufacturer and distributor of home medical products, but consumers really don't know our brand," says Mixon, who revealed his plans recently at a Leadership Breakfast meeting sponsored by the Cleveland Engineering Society. "With our place in the industry, we have a chance to really make ourselves known. I don't think any of our competitors are in a place where they can launch this type of program."
Invacare is on pace to record $1 billion in sales this year, a first for the Elyria-based company and a $122 million increase over 1999 revenue. Throughout its growth, Invacare has invested its resources into product development, distribution and building its manufacturing facilities worldwide.
While those efforts have helped it earn a solid reputation among business peers, Wall Street analysts and health care professionals, the general public is still relatively unaware of the company. But Mixon believes an aggressive marketing and advertising campaign will help it reach its sales goal of $2 billion by 2005 while making Invacare a household name.
Earlier this year, Invacare, which stands for "Innovation in healthcare," launched a four-pronged strategy aimed at gaining worldwide consumer recognition.
Bring it under one roof
Invacare launched 30 products in 1999 and bought access to more through acquisitions of Suburban Ostomy and Scandinavian Mobility International. In previous years, Invacare usually placed the product name above the company's name on boxes and other packaging to give it more recognition and keep its face in the background.
No longer, says Mixon.
"We want those millions of boxes we send out to consumers' homes to have our name on the top," he says.
Invacare's medallion logo will also be prominently displayed on all its products by the end of the year to give it greater exposure.
Get media savvy
Invacare has always advertised. This year, however, it formed its Marketing Advantage Partnership, or MAP program. Under the MAP program, Invacare will provide home medical equipment providers with high-quality television spots on power wheelchairs, scooters and lift chairs to help generate leads and customer traffic for providers.
Both the television and print advertisements contain Invacare's new tag line, "Yes, you can," which was unveiled earlier this year. It reinforces the company's mission to help those with disabilities lead active lives.
Design a Web of influence
Invacare added a search engine to its Web site to help customers find any of the company's 25,000 home medical equipment provider's locations. It is also engaged in a more targeted effort to let consumers know they can buy products directly from Invacare's Web site or the sites of medical equipment providers.
Whether this initiative is working is hard to gauge due to the complications of claims processing through Medicare, Medicaid and other third party reimbursement. But Mixon is confident it will work.
"We will have the No. 1 e-commerce site in our industry, and it will generate more business for Invacare and our provider partners," he says confidently.
Put a face with the name
For future advertisements and marketing materials, Invacare is looking for a well-known spokesperson whose name and reputation capture the company's image and reputation for trust and quality.
"We can't afford to sign up Tiger Woods for $100 million," Mixon admits. "So we're going to have to keep looking." How to reach: Invacare Corp., (440) 329-6000
Morgan Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter at SBN.
I love election years. They're full of good, old-fashioned politicking, mudslinging, fund-raising and stump speeches.
This month, we elected a new president who, most likely, talked his way into the White House on a foundation of promises about his vision of the future. Odds are, it won't be long before complaints begin about a failure to follow through on campaign promises.
While politics isn't the focus of this month's column, it is a lot like business. And in business, there are few things worse than someone who fails to execute on a promise made to a customer. Such actions call into question fundamental principles such as integrity, honesty and good faith, none of which can afford to be compromised if a business is to be successful.
In many cases, those promises are made with all the best intentions. But sometimes those promises are made with only one intention: personal gain. So how can you keep your company from finding itself in a position where a customer is disgruntled over false promises?
Work within the constraints of your company's abilities.
If your business provides only Web design, don't offer network design as a bonus if you can't do it in-house or don't have deals with an outsource service provider already in place. It sets unrealistic goals that you won't be able to meet.
I've heard one too many people say it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. That logic can get your business into serious trouble.
Make promises in good faith.
Don't make promises simply to close a deal and then worry about performing later. When customers or suppliers accept your word that you will follow through on an order, products, service or even a referral, they expect that you intend to honor that promise.
Assuring customers that you'll deliver just to get a deal signed while knowing you won't is not only unscrupulous, it will come back to haunt your business in the long run.
Underpromise and overdeliver.
Few things satisfy clients more than telling them you'll have an order completed on Friday, then delivering it on Tuesday, three days early. It saves customers time, money and worries about whether they'll be able to complete their own business transactions in a timely fashion.
I once asked a salesman who had been honored as top in his industry what his secret to success was. He responded, "I always make promises to my customers that I not only know I'll be able to deliver on, but 99 percent of the time I will be able to exceed their expectations."
No wonder he's been so successful.
In politics, unfortunately, there's never been a candidate who's triumphed in the poll box after proclaiming on the campaign trail, "I don't know what I'm going to be able to do for you if you elect me, but whatever it is, I'll do what's within my means."
In business, however, that same philosophy may help your company prosper. It's worth considering. Dustin Klein (email@example.com) is editor of SBN.
There are more ways than ever to get your name to clients and vendors.
But the same click of a mouse that sends messages across the Internet in the blink of an eye can just as quickly banish them to cyber oblivion. The same can be said for voice mail.
But the good, old-fashioned business card provides all the relevant information a person needs to know about your company. And it can do so much more.
Bob Popyk, author of "Here's My Card: How to Network Using Your Business Card to Actually Create More Business," offers tips and stories for business owners looking for ways to get more out of those thin paper rectangles. He has advice on everything from colors and type faces to when you might want to use odd materials or staples.
And, he explains when not to use business cards and even how to keep track of those you have distributed.
Here are a few of his suggestions:
Have your business cards made in a foldover style, double-sided with a perforation. The tear-off section could contain a discount, a freebie for coming in, a certificate or a rebate.
Coins glued with rubber cement to a business card get attention. They get noticed and they don't get thrown away.
Keep on clipping
To your targets' attention, send -- or bring -- something of interest to them from a newspaper or magazine. Attach your business card to the article with the back side out. This is where you write your personal note. Use a paper clip so they can easily remove your card. All your pertinent information is on the front. They will turn it over, even if it's just out of curiosity.
What's that name again?
When a name is hard to pronounce or read, phonetically spelling it out (in parentheses) could be a face-saver for your customer. Your ethnic name might be easy for you, but for the person who gets your card, it could be a bit of a problem. How to reach: "Here's My Card" is available at bookstores nationwide or through many online book outlets. For more information, contact Bentley-Hall Inc., (800) 724-9700 or at www.bentley-hall.com.
Daniel Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org)is senior editor of SBN.
You've heard "Knowledge is power" and "Information is king." And, no doubt you're increasingly inundated with massive amounts of information and communications.
But do you feel more powerful? If you are like most people, odds are, you're actually feeling more confused than ever. The reality is that information and knowledge are useless unless you're able to apply them to some productive end.
There has been a lot of discussion about our economy becoming knowledge-based and needing knowledge workers. I disagree. We need to go beyond knowledge workers and cultivate wisdom workers.
Knowledge workers can successfully obtain knowledge through a multitude of sources, including the latest technology. These people are intellectually and educationally top-notch, with high IQs, although they may not always be practical in their approaches.
Wisdom workers are engaged in their work and successfully apply their knowledge to get things accomplished. Some may call these individuals street-wise for their ability to lead for results. They may not be at the top intellectually, educationally or technologically and may have done poorly in these areas in school.
They gain wisdom by reflecting on their life lessons, seeking to understand others and applying what they learn. They use the best means at the best time for the best end.
Here are five ways to grow your own wisdom workers.
Communications training for interpersonal skills. You can't uncork the knowledge in others if they do not feel comfortable in their ability to communicate. Consider courses in leadership training and communications skills, covering conflict management, respect in communications and how to show appreciation and encouragement.
People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nobody listens to your wisdom if they don't feel you care.
Deprogram people to think entrepreneurially. Formal education taught most people to memorize and regurgitate facts. Now, your requests are for creativity in the workplace. So how can you deprogram your staff to move in that direction?
- Devote 10 percent of your time to new projects. You may say you don't have time, but you will if you stop and identify what can be eliminated or delegated.
- Test conventional wisdom. Ask why your company does things the way it does. Make changes where appropriate to be more efficient.
- Invest time in entrepreneurial organizations and education. Enroll key staff members in an entrepreneurial studies course at a university or get involved with Ohio Business Week and/or Junior Achievement.
- Show others the money. Consider paying cash bonuses on programs that provide a positive identifiable financial impact.
- Initiate a no fear zone. Fear of failure is real. Consider programs that build self-confidence.
Rev up cross-generational and cross-functional learning. Cross-generational learning establishes formal mentoring alliances between younger and older workers. Have the younger mentor the older on systems; have the older mentor the younger on culture and ways to get things done.
Cross-functionally moves people laterally to obtain more knowledge and the wisdom of walking in another person's shoes.
Cultivate wisdom and be a responsible member of the community. Leadership wisdom is obtained through influencing others, not making demands.
A fantastic venue to grow leadership wisdom and contribute to the community is through volunteer efforts with nonprofit groups and organizations.
Blur the lines between business and education. Allow your staff time to contribute to the educational community. Invite people from the education field into your company.
If you are like most people, the Information Age has not made life any easier. The demands to increase your knowledge and your time commitments have never been greater. The real challenge is to cultivate wisdom. The winners in life have always been, and will always be, those who convert knowledge into wisdom.
Get started on your journey to move yourself and your organization into the Wisdom Age. Mike Foti (email@example.com) is CEO of Cleveland Glass Block (a Northcoast 99 winner) and president of Leadership Builders. He speaks, trains, facilitates and consults with individuals on leadership and strategic planning. He can be reached at (216) 531-6085.
Selling a single-family home is a lot different than selling a car. A house is unique and sells itself, but you can find the same car at a dozen dealerships -- it's price and service that sell the car.
Steve and Cathy Jackshaw know this. They ran Jackshaw Chevrolet in Cleveland for more than 10 years, following Steve's father, who ran it for 40 years. After selling the business in 1998, they earned their realtor's licenses and joined Realty One's Chesterland office to use their car business savvy to sell homes.
The couple believes the key to car sales -- to any big-ticket sales -- is maintaining relationships with the customer after the pitch. Here are their keys to success.
Some days, it's impossible to return all the messages you receive. But always attempt to get back to a customer with a question in a reasonable amount of time. Although it doesn't guarantee a sale, an ignored customer is unlikely to buy.
"I've been told by people, 'You're the only one who called me back,'" says Cathy Jackshaw. "It amazes me, because it's such a simple thing."
Do unto others
Although you may have sold one customer, if that person is treated well, he or she will likely tell family, friends and neighbors about the experience. That can pay off in future sales.
"If somebody feels you've done a good job for them, they feel very comfortable about recommending you to someone they know," Jackshaw says. "Trust is a big thing. If a car salesman doesn't treat a customer right, he's going to tell twice as many people how bad he was treated."
In car sales, the axiom used to be that if the customer walked out the door and you didn't close him, you weren't going to see him again.
"I don't think that was always true," says Jackshaw. "But in real estate, it's not that way at all. A realtor is not going to sell somebody on a house. It's going to be their decision. It's not like when you walk out of the house and they didn't sign the papers that the deal won't eventually come together."
Keep in touch
It's important to keep the lines of communication open and not forget about the customer once the sale is made. If you're investing your time and energy in a customer, there will be a return on that investment.
"It's funny. Our motto at Jackshaw Chevrolet was, 'After we sell, we serve,'" she says. "It's kind of the same thing. If we sell you a home or sell your home, it's not like you're never going to hear from us again. We keep a relationship." How to reach: Steve and Cathy Jackshaw, Realty One, (440)729-3300
Morgan Lewis Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter at SBN.
So you've got a killer Internet start-up and you're ready to take the world by storm. There's only one problem: You don't have any money and the venture capitalists don't seem to be listening.
The problem may be with your presentation, not with your idea. But don't worry, there's hope on the Internet. American Express Small Business Exchange offers these tips on its Web site for Internet start-ups looking for venture capital funding.
1. Ask for the right amount of money.
Low-balling could put you out of the running. Venture capitalists know what a typical dot-com needs to get started and want to be sure you know as well. They'll bristle at firms whose funding needs fall below their threshold. How much to ask for depends on the investor, industry and stage of development.
2. Know the development stages.
Plan your fund-raising strategy through several rounds by presenting a realistic timeline for subsequent financing. The basic VC development stages are:
Seed financing -- Initial investment to get registered and started, hone the business plan and begin development of a sample Web site. Range: $100,000 to $500,000.
First stage/start-up financing -- Used to build a management team, ready site for launch and support the first few months of commercialization. Range: $3 million to $5 million.
Second stage financing -- Funds advertising and marketing once the site is up and running, building a customer base and sustaining fast growth. Range: $10 million-plus.
Third stage/bridge financing -- Used to reach an IPO. Range: $20 million.
3. Build your management team.
Talent is the number one thing VCs look at. Investors want previous start-up success and relevant expertise, as well as plans for how the team will evolve. Consider creating a board of advisers.
4. Financials don't really matter, but ...
Nobody can predict success, especially on the Web. That said, VCs will examine numbers to gauge how seriously you've considered the size of your opportunity and the costs of getting to market. Avoid grand growth claims -- build projections from the ground up, using customer segment data, offline spending habits and the success of similar online firms.
5. Demonstrate multiple revenue streams.
Having more than one revenue stream will provide a fallback position should your initial revenue source not develop as planned.
6. Show high-profile partners.
Strategic alliances that improve your talent pool, provide channels of distribution or increase your visibility demonstrate that respected firms are willing to work with you, reducing the amount of due diligence a VC has to undertake.
7. Sign some customers.
Show that clients support your product and company. No current customers? Establish prospect references -- ones that are willing to work with your business if certain criteria are met.
8. Snowball your funding opportunities.
Offers pending from other investors help sway fence sitters and give you greater leverage to get the best deal possible. Only use this tactic if genuine term sheets are in the works -- VCs will call around to confirm claims.
9. Be prepared to vest.
VCs want assurance that you and your team will be around for the long haul -- or at least until they're able to cash out. Expect vestment requests to key managers to stay with the business for a set time before shares take effect.
10. State the exit strategy clearly.
Investors used to plan their exits four or five years out. For Internet ventures, they look for more rapid paybacks, often as little as two years. Explain where your company will be at that time and provide a rationale for this vision. How to reach: American Express Small Business Exchange, www.americanexpress.com/smallbusiness
Daniel G. Jacobs (email@example.com) is senior editor of SBN.
It was three days before Christmas last year and about two minutes before opening.
Wadi Ina was in the back room of his Chardon-based New York Deli and Grille doing paperwork when one of the restaurant's servers walked into the office and said he was pretty sure there was smoke seeping into the restaurant.
"I peaked through the back door," Ina recalls. "I saw flames coming through the door of the store next door."
The fire department arrived within minutes, but it was too late to save the business next door, Bostwick Hardware, which was completely destroyed and today remains a vacant shell.
For Ina, however, the story was different. His firewall held up and the deli remained largely intact. There was plenty of damage -- firefighters ripped holes in the walls looking for ways to attack the flames, smoke and water marred the restaurant's remaining walls, floors and equipment -- but Ina's real battle was with his landlord.
"I was sitting in the parking lot saying, 'This is not happening,'" he recalls.
And, as he watched firefighters battle the blaze, Ina wondered about the future of his business and his business plan. The lease clearly indicated who was responsible for the repairs; what it didn't define was the time frame in which those repairs were to be completed.
The resulting daily struggle to get his operation grilling again not only hindered business, but also prevented the Lebanese immigrant from implementing his long-term plans, both for the future of his business and for his family.
Ina wanted to retire by age 55, but the young restaurateur was savvy enough to know he needed help to get there.
He met with Mark Arlen, a planner with the Cleveland Financial Group, and the pair spent months running the numbers. The final plan considered all aspects -- from employee retention strategies and buy-sell agreements to retirement income -- to finance Ina's leisure days.
"We had done the whole plan," Ina says.
Implementation had barely begun when the fire sparked, putting it all in jeopardy.
After the fire, Ina devoted his attention to getting the New York Deli & Grille opened. He likens it to "seven months of being pregnant because you're in labor every day."
Because of the interruption in his business, Ina didn't have the income to support his plans for an employee retirement program. Business interruption insurance helped, but not enough to move forward with other plans. Even when Arlen called to remind him to maintain his life and disability insurance policies, Ina wondered where the money was going to come from.
Ina and his partner survived the seven-month hiatus, reopening the restaurant in August.
For now, Ina's financial plan is on hold until the business and cash flow return to normal and he and his partner settle lingering concerns. The process, which should have been underway, now is likely to be pushed back one or two years. It's problems like this, Arlen says, that reinforce the notion at that preparation is key.
"People need to be more focused on planning ahead and thinking ahead before things happen," he says.
One minute Ina was worried about holiday party trays and juggling vacation schedules; the next, it was how to get the business running again.
"Yeah, you do have insurance, but it's a big, drawn-out process," Ina says. "It's not like they give you a blank check."
The New York Deli is not Ina's only venture. Without another restaurant, the Manhattan Deli in Willoughby Hills, Ina may not have been able to get his restaurant opened, even in seven months.
"If I didn't have another business, it would be very close to bankruptcy," he says.
Ina's partner in the Chardon restaurant wasn't so lucky. He and his wife, who also worked at the deli, were forced to find other jobs while repairs were made, even though the partners had business interruption insurance. Ina, himself, sought outside help.
"We had to go to the bank to borrow money to keep it going," he says.
The main problem was the lease, Ina says. While it did articulate who was responsible for the repairs to the infrastructure (the landlord), there were no stipulations on the time he had to complete them. Without knowing when they would be able do the detail work -- and burning through cash faster than expected -- Ina was limited during negotiations with his own insurance company. Knowing Ina was desperate, the insurance company held all the cards.
That changed when Ina received a bank loan. Once he no longer had to worry about day-to-day money issues, it put him in a better position to negotiate with his insurance company. And, he hired a private adjuster to work with the insurance company to get the claim settled faster. It's something he regrets not having done from the beginning, and will make sure to do if disaster hits again.
Like many business owners, Ina once believed, "It'll never happen to me." He now knows all too well the trouble of falling for that fallacy and follows another philosophy -- it's never to early to start planning, although it might be too late.
To other business owners who aren't yet true believers in preparedness, he offers this advice: "Get started as early as you can because you never know what tomorrow brings." How to reach: New York Deli & Grille, (440) 286-3388; Cleveland Financial Group, (216) 765-7420
Daniel G. Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor of SBN.
When the planning process began, Cleveland Financial Group's Mark Arlen asked Wadi Ina what his goals were for the future.
Ina replied, "a comfortable lifestyle."
Arlen asked, "What does that mean?" and kept asking as Ina further articulated his hopes. "Success" and "Peace of mind" followed.
The pair finally settled on "Make a better life for your family -- better than your parents made for you."
To get to that goal, Arlen led Ina through a four-part process -- objectives, assumptions, recommendations and implementation. It's something any business owner setting plans for the future should consider.
Simply put, what do you want to accomplish? Ina wanted to plan for the future of his family and his business. Arlen led him through a variety of issues, including:
- Emergency reserves
- Accumulation goals
- Mortgage analysis
- Education funding
- Retirement planning
- Investment planning
- Risk management, including disability and survivor income needs
- Estate planning
- Business planning
The assumptions were based on information Ina provided about his business. One of his goals was to provide five years worth of education for each of his two children. The assumption was that he would need $25,000 per year for five years in today's dollars, inflating at 5 percent.
Based on their ages, Ina was told to save $731 each month for his 8-year-old son, Jason, and $557 a month for his 4-year-old daughter, Nicole.
The final step of any long-term plan is to schedule the implementation of each of the accepted recommendations. It was that part of the process Ina had barely begun when the fire hit.
Now, because everything is being pushed back, the numbers will have to be adjusted, Ina says.
Patrick Hergenroeder doesn't understand what all the buzz is about. Although he knows he is a Pillar Award honoree for his work with youth sports groups, he still contends that he's done nothing special.
Bill Dieterle disagrees.
A close friend, Dieterle nominated Hergenroeder for the award without telling him. It was Dieterle who brought to the judges' attention all the things the orthopaedic surgeon and owner of Chagrin Falls-based Hergenroeder Orthopaedic Clinic has done for the community.
Conceding his efforts are noteworthy, Hergenroeder still says he's disappointed -- he sees so much that can be done to make the world a better place, but he's only one person who can do only so much. It's that attitude that underscores the doctor's commitment to making a difference.
For instance, does someone who calls himself "nobody special" donate 500 footballs every year to underfunded athletic organizations? Hergenroeder gives 10 to 15 new footballs to between 33 and 50 high schools and organizations each year.
And does someone who argues that he is "just one person" donate autographed footballs and baseballs to area high school athletic booster clubs so they can raffle the items off to raise money for their organizations? The autographed pieces he donates have sold for $500 to $900 apiece, becoming key tools for school funding.
Hergenroeder says he doesn't have the time or the money to do all that he wishes he could, yet he finds enough time to offer free CPR training. After he read an article that said many heart attack deaths could be prevented with the use of CPR, he decided to teach it to schoolteachers, store managers, office receptionists, librarians and anyone else who comes in contact with the public every day.
Some would say that Hergenroeder has more than done his share. Yet he says he'd like to do much more.
"Your record here on Earth has to stand for itself," he says. "When you die and go into the box, nothing else goes with you."
Hergenroeder says the world is definitely a better place today than it was a hundred years ago. We continue to conquer disease; we have electricity. But, he says, it's imperative that people not take modern conveniences for granted if that trend is to continue.
"We have to excel," Hergenroeder says. "If we don't go forward, we go backward. We have to put in more than we take out and make the world better for the people who will be here after us."
Hergenroeder continues to put in more than he takes out. Each June, he lines up 14 retired Cleveland Browns players to aid area high school and college coaches with a youth football camp that trains 100 to 150 inner-city students. The former pros talk with students about drugs, drinking, smoking and the importance of staying in school.
So does Hergenroeder make a difference? It's a safe bet that the world probably seems a little better to those kids after the camps than it did before. How to reach: Hergenroeder Orthopaedic Clinic, (440) 247-2644
Courie Weston (email@example.com) is a reporter at SBN.
Investors on the West and East coasts have lost millions of dollars the last couple of years on technology companies which had an idea, but didn't know how to use it to actually make money.
Some of these aimless companies were lucky and made hundreds of millions of dollars, but more lost it all, causing the market to dry up. The ripples were felt even in the Midwest.
Investors are a little more wary these days when it comes to start-up technology companies, so it's important to show that you have a solid, proven business plan.
"The first thing we needed to show our investors is how they could make money," says Stephen McHale, CEO of Everstream, an application service provider that allows businesses to deliver targeted rich media content and advertisements over the Internet and wireless devices. "Once we could show them that not only would it not cost them anything, but it could make them money, that really got their attention."
At the Northeast Ohio Software Association's second Seed Capital Initiative, McHale and the CEOs of other rapidly-growing technology start-ups in Cleveland shared advice and war stories about raising capital in the marketplace after the investment feeding frenzy.
Here are a few of things they've learned.
Once the plan is in place, it's important to find investors who know something about your field. If the idea is very high-tech or complex, it's unlikely there will be investors who are experts; however, a knowledgeable investor will add much more value to the company than someone just looking for a dividend.
"There's nothing better than getting an e-mail from an angel (investor) that has information that actually pertains to my business that I can go follow up on," says Ken Applebaum, CEO of Embedded Planet, which provides software and hardware platforms for manufacturers and developers of embedded systems.
The economy is not driven by steel and widgets anymore, it's about ideas and information. For both investors and entrepreneurs, networking is the key to finding out about opportunities to grow a company. Internet chat rooms, list servers and Web sites are also ways to network, so don't forsake them to concentrate solely on traditional face-to-face methods.
"Networking is what this whole technology business is all about," Applebaum says. "You will find other people out there who can add value."
The founders of many of start-ups left behind their steady 8 to 5 jobs with handsome salaries, benefits and corporate perks. To say goodbye to all that and go out on your own requires tremendous passion and a complete devotion to the idea, not just the desire to get rich, says Rebecca Braun, CEO of SupplierInsight, an online qualification and ratings guide of industrial suppliers engaged in digital procurement.
"It is raw passion that pulls you through to the final stretch that gets you funding," Braun says. "I know it happens all the time in all walks of life, but I can't fail to mention this step because I think it's the one thing that absolutely pulled us through to getting funding." How to reach: Everstream, (440) 498-8899 or www.everstream.com; Embedded Planet, (440) 646-0077 or www.embeddedplanet.com; SupplierInsight, (216) 781-1100 or www.supplierinsight.com
Morgan Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter with SBN.