Cleveland (5895)

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Diamond in the rough

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In 1993, accountant Gary Isakov was a senior manager at Ernst & Young. He serviced gold mine companies, pension funds for multibillion dollar clients and directed board meetings.

Later that year, he received a job offer from a much smaller company, where he would start at almost the junior level and work primarily on smaller accounts for less money. Isakov jumped at the chance. Why? The job was in the United States. He was working in South Africa.

"I felt it made more sense to make a future for myself in the United States rather than South Africa," says Isakov, in the flinty accent of his homeland. "Things are very unstable there."

Today, Isakov is a partner and director of health care services for SS&G Financial Services Co. Since he was hired, SS&G has hired three other accountants from South Africa and tapped into a talented and experienced labor pool which wants to take advantage of the opportunities available at an American firm while escaping the high crime rate and volatile government in their own country.

The firm's unusual recruiting efforts have not gone unnoticed. Isakov returned to South Africa this past summer to interview accountants for several other firms in the United States.

Thanks to a strong economy, dot-com companies and a sharp drop in the number of accounting graduates, SS&G had been scrambling in recent years to find quality prospects.

"Accounting firms are battling to find experienced accountants," Isakov says. "You can find people out of college, but we were specifically looking for people with a minimum of three or five years in public accounting. Sometimes it's difficult even to find people."

Like other companies, SS&G placed ads in local newspapers and trade journals and attended job fairs, but it wasn't attracting the experienced accountants it was looking for. Isakov, whose arrival in 1993 preceded the labor crunch, knew that accountants in his home country go through three years of mandatory training called articles after they receive their accounting degrees.

It was just the experience the firm wanted. And, although tax laws and some accounting principles vary between the countries, three years accounting experience is still much better than none at all.

"The training is phenomenal," Isakov says. "The education level is very high --- it's very focused -- much more so than in America. In South Africa, which follows the British system, from your first year at university, you're doing accounting, economics, business, finance, marketing; it's very business-oriented, very business-driven, and the education level is very good. So the people you get out of school there are good caliber people."

SS&G placed an ad in the Sunday Times, the country's largest newspaper, asking interested candidates to e-mail resumes to SS&G in Cleveland. When the ad was placed, SS&G was recruiting just for itself.

However, word of the trip spread through The Leading Edge Alliance, a consortium of independent accounting firms which SS&G created, and other member firms wanted a piece of the action.Forget the myths

While companies may be eager to recruit overseas after local markets have dried up, they need to be prepared to invest plenty of time and energy in the long, bureaucratic process of obtaining work visas for employees.

"America's not what it used to be," Isakov says. "My American friends still think that you can jump on a boat, pass the Statue of Liberty, land on Ellis Island, a doctor checks you out and that's it. America has become a very difficult country to get into legally. There are a lot of papers, a lot of documents.

"Once you've done it, it's not a problem, but you do have to get professional help to do it."

Not only does it take several months for the paperwork to clear, the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization is only issuing 107,500 work visas from Oct. 1, 2000 to Sept. 30, 2001. Isakov expects the visas, called H-1B visas, to be gone by March.

The visas entitle the employee to work for three years at the same company. It can be renewed for another three years or the employee can earn citizenship. Family and children can come to America with the employee, but if a spouse wants to work, he or she has to obtain a separate visa.

Despite these restrictions and complications, SS&G partner Mark Goldfarb says the effort is worth it.

"Knowing that there's this wonderful work force in South Africa that we've been able to hire, we've decided to go back to South Africa and make it a worthwhile effort," says Goldfarb. "Gary and the other accountants from there we've hired have really worked out well."

Know the terrain

SS&G's ad in the Sunday Times garnered 100 responses from accountants not only in South Africa, but also from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Nigeria. The resumes were paper screened by the firm's human resources staff before Isakov traveled 8,367 miles for 20 in-person interviews.

"Interestingly enough, it wasn't just white, Anglo-Saxon South Africans," says Isakov. "There were African South Africans, there were Indian South Africans. Actually, one of the people I really liked was from Zimbabwe. It was a real broad spectrum of personalities and backgrounds applying for the jobs."

Aside from the $1,200 plane ticket and rental car, Isakov kept costs down for SS&G by staying with friends and family and borrowing office space from a friend. He spent two to three hours talking with each applicant, and usually visited the home and shared a meal with the top candidates. While interested in the move, many candidates were worried about the relocation.

"They had questions and concerns about education, living and work and cost of living in the United States," Isakov says. "They truly are coming in blind. Their only perception of America is what they read in magazines, books or see on television, which obviously is not a true depiction of life."

Candidates also expressed concern about assimilating into America and losing touch with home. Luckily, Isakov had walked that path only seven years ago and could put their worries to rest with the story of one of his early days living in Cleveland.

There was an international rugby match in which South Africa was battling Australia in a heated rivalry. Due to the sport's lack of popularity in the States, no major network or local cable station was carrying the game. So Isakov grabbed a phone book and started calling downtown sports bars until he found one showing the game.

"I dressed up in my rugby jersey and my scarf and I went down not really knowing what to expect," Isakov says. "I bumped into about 40 or 50 South Africans. It was a wonderful way of saying, 'Hi, I'm here,' and they took me under their arm and we became friendly that way."

An offer they can't refuse

Because he was recruiting for numerous firms, Isakov couldn't make job offers to applicants. He did, however, pass on names with strong recommendations. His latest trip yielded about eight recruits, four of whom Isakov expects will accept job offers.

Although SS&G is behind this kind of aggressive recruiting effort, firms need to consider the time factor involved and if the time wouldn't be better spent on domestic recruiting. But, if you're not getting the kind of experience you need for your particular industry, maybe it's time to broaden your human resources horizons.

"This took a significant amount of my time and my HR person," Isakov says. "We probably spent at least 120 hours on this. It didn't help my chargeable hour goals, but obviously this is an investment in the future." How to reach: SS&G Financial Services Co., (330) 668-9696

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Building on a brownfield

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It was a chilly morning in late 1997 when Jergens Inc. President Jack Schron Jr. pulled up to what is now the site of his company's headquarters at the former Collinwood railroad yard, just off East 152nd Street.

The first thing that caught his eye was the dead dog -- probably one of the many stray animals on the property -- but that was the least of it. There was an enormous pile of bald tires, discarded sinks and refrigerators, and a crumbling powerhouse with teetering smokestacks.

"Hey, this is great, isn't it?" Schron quipped to his colleagues, who looked sick at the thought of this neglected parcel of land as their new home.

But Schron was destined to move the growing clamp and machine tool accessory manufacturing headquarters to the railyard, which closed in 1981. The site was only about two miles from the garage where his father and grandfather co-founded Jergens in 1942.

It was one of the first locations Schron considered after the company ruled out expanding its existing building in Warrensville Heights.

"The hardest sell of my leadership was convincing our management team that this was where our new home was going to be," Schron says. "They said, 'You have to be kidding us.'"

Schron persevered and construction began in May 1998. By September 1999, the doors for the 110,000-square-foot facility were open. Due to the environmental mess, the project required government coordination on every level, with the city and the state each chipping in $1 million to help revitalize the area.

Here's what Schron learned from the process.

Find an expert

When he first considered relocation, Schron looked at the entire Greater Cleveland area. To help focus the search, he hired a real estate agent to work on a fee basis rather than on commission.

"There won't be an incentive for them to sell you something," Schron says. "There is an incentive for them to try and educate you."

Go public

Jergens' relocation to the Collinwood railyard wouldn't have been possible without support and cooperation from city, county and state governments. The company used municipal bonds from Cleveland's Port Authority to help fund the project and the environmental clean-up.

Despite the bureaucracy, cities and counties are eager to help business owners clean up and build on their blighted industrial areas.

"This was one of the most interactive organizational challenges that some of these governments had seen in a long time," Schron says. "But that's how the process works, and I think it will work a little faster in the future because of it."

It's worth the time

Pollution surprises, EPA studies and inspections, and government partnerships all increase the timeline on a brownfield project. If a company plans to take on a project like Jergens' Collinwood relocation, there shouldn't be any kind of hurry.

"There are some that tease us that we deserve the patience award," Schron says. "I think, ultimately, if we're going to spend the next 25 to 30 years here, what's a couple months if you get it done right, and environmentally, it's the correct thing to do." How to reach: Jergens Inc., (216) 486-5540

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

A tradition of giving

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UNB Corp.'s chairman and CEO Roger Mann is at a loss for words. When it comes to pinpointing what organizations his financial services holding company and its 350 employees help the most, there are almost too many to name.

"I really say this with pride, I don't think there's anything that's a driver in this community that we're not involved in," Mann says. "We, as a corporation, just feel it's a civic responsibility and our people welcome that."

For Mann and his company, community giving, whether through financial contributions or volunteer hours, is as important to a business as sales and customer service.

"If you don't have a caring community, your businesses are not going to succeed, your churches are not going to flourish, nothing really happens," he says. "Without that sense of community, I really don't think the community has a chance to prosper or go forward."

This year, UNB Corp.'s employees have pledged more than $45,000 to dozens of local and national charitable organizations. More than $166,000 has been donated from the company's charitable trust, ranging from contributions to Walsh University, Stark County Out of Poverty and the United Way to the Cultural Center for the Arts and Alliance Community Hospital, as well as many others.

But it's not just about financial donations. UNB Corp.'s employees volunteer hundreds of hours a month to local educational, youth and humanitarian organizations in the Canton area. UNB employee Jeff Ferry, for instance, spends more than 50 hours a month volunteering for Meals on Wheels of Stark & Wayne counties, United Way and Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Junior Achievement and coaching in the North Canton Little League.

Barb Heinricher, who heads UNB Corp.'s training department, volunteers more than 20 hours a month for Junior Achievement, Mayor's Literacy Commission of Canton, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Stark State College of Technology.

"I teach kids how to keep a check register, make out deposit slips and checks," Heinricher says. "They get a sense that, 'Hey, I can do this -- I can understand this,' and they're so excited."

These are just two examples of a spirit of volunteerism that has always been a part of UNB Corp., which includes United National Bank & Trust Co., United Banc Financial Services Inc. and United Insurance Agency Inc.

"This company goes back to pre-Civil War days," Mann says. "Wherever I have been through the years, I always felt it was very much a responsibility, a pleasant one, to try and serve your community, so I was really blessed when I arrived here."

UNB Corp. has had two of its CEOs volunteer to serve as campaign chairperson for the United Way, which prompted United Way of Central Stark County president Steve Miller to nominate the company for the 2000 Pillar Award for Community Service.

"We thought it was unique that the company would show that kind of commitment over the years," Miller says. "They walk the talk and they are expansive in their generosity. We've been partners as long as I can remember." How to reach: UNB Corp., (330) 438-1119

Morgan Lewis (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.

Friday, 19 July 2002 11:38

First mover

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We all consider ourselves budget-savvy. We pay the bills and put the rest into savings and investments.

But every time we try to get ahead on our debt, other expenses interfere. Sometimes, the extra money is needed for medical bills or to replace a broken appliance, but too often, it simply slips away to things we don't need, like that bigger television or the new gizmo that promises to change our lives.

Gary Habeeb witnessed this spending trend and started a profitable biweekly mortgage payment service. He offered homeowners the benefit of paying off their mortgage sooner -- which saves on interest -- because they make one extra monthly payment every year.

In essence, consumers get ahead on debt without feeling the pinch. Habeeb knew the service could be applied to car payments, but wasn't sure how.

One night, after saying his prayers and drifting off to sleep, he leapt up with one thought in his mind: Halfpayments.com. He ran downstairs and flipped on his computer. Searching the Web and domain name registrars, he found nothing similar.

"We had done very well in the mortgage industry, but I was praying to the Lord for something to open up," he says. "Jesus answered my prayer. He's blessed us unbelievably. There's no other way to see it than as a blessing."

Even before divine intervention helped him solidify his plans, Habeeb had put in place the proper components for applying the half payments idea to nearly any industry. Here's how he did it.

Stake your claim

Habeeb, CEO of Halfpayments Inc. in Strongsville, patented his biweekly car payment service and trademarked the name Halfpayments. When he founded the system last year, it was one of the few dot-com companies that had true first-mover status, and it's continued to hold onto that position.

"We have no competition," he says. "I think (the trademark) really deters a lot of people from doing it. If you were going to do something similar, what would you call it? You really couldn't call it other than what it really is."

Habeeb's system is user-friendly. Car buyers are charged a one-time set up fee of $199.95 when they sign up for the service. There's no electronic transfer fee, which is common with biweekly mortgage payments, and Habeeb doesn't charge the car dealership for implementing his system, even though it guarantees customers will save money and likely return to that dealer when they are ready for a new vehicle.

Consumers like the system because they can pay off a typical five-year car loan five months early and save anywhere from $500 to $2,000 on interest.

"Could you do our system by making an extra payment a year? Sure you could," Habeeb says. "But who does that? Nobody. It's a service, no doubt about it."

Forge alliances

Thanks to strong regional publicity and a team of 65 marketing representatives, word spread quickly about Halfpayments.com. Dealerships from all over the country signed up for the system. Then, investors called to offer money, and rival companies called with acquisition offers.

But Habeeb wasn't interested in a fast buck. He saw the long-term potential of his system. However, he is in negotiations with a major company in the automotive industry to form a partnership using the Halfpayments system.

Due to legal restrictions, he would not reveal the name of the company. He did say that the key to the company's future success will be not only with dealership partnerships, but with the larger national and international companies as well. That is why, when the system was unveiled last August, he launched nationwide instead of test marketing locally.

"We're trying to get into the market as quickly as possible on a large scale like many Internet companies, but at the same time, we're also building bricks-and-mortar type relationships," says Elias Hussney, president of Halfpayments. "I think that culturing and cultivating of long-lasting relationships is what's missing in a lot of business practices these days."

How to reach: Halfpayments Inc., (866) PAY-HALF or www.halfpayments.com

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.

Friday, 19 July 2002 10:21

Ernst & Young seeks entrepreneurs

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What are the characteristics of an entrepreneur? How about adaptability, passion, confidence, strategic vision or a need to conquer the world?

If you know someone who has translated any of those traits into a successful business model, you can nominate them for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) award.

Ernst & Young is seeking nominations for Northeast Ohio-based entrepreneurs as part of its 14th Annual Entrepreneur Of The Year awards, the pre-eminent program honoring outstanding owners of fast-growing companies.

"Entrepreneurs increasingly impact the Northeast Ohio economy by creating new industries that will dramatically change the way we live and do business in this century," says C. Lee Thomas of Ernst & Young, director of the firm's Cleveland entrepreneurial services practice. "The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award program is designed to recognize those individuals who are paving the way for a new age of entrepreneurship."

Past Northeast Ohio EOY award winners include a virtual "Who's Who" of local business leaders, such as Dr. Gil van Bokkelen and Dr. John Harrington of Athersys Inc., Mal Mixon of Invacare Corp., Carol Latham of Thermagon Inc., Jack Kahl of Manco Inc. and Howard Cleveland of Digital Day. Last year, 15 entrepreneurs in nine categories from Northeast Ohio were selected as EOY award recipients.

Nationally, past awards recipients include Michael Dell of Dell Computer Corp., Sheryl Leach of the Lyons Group (creators of "Barney"), Jim McCann of 1-800-Flowers, Howard Schultz of Starbucks Coffee and Richard Schulze of Best Buy.

Those eligible for the EOY awards are owners and managers who have primary responsibility for the growth of their company; if the company is public, the founder must be an active member in top management. The requirements for consideration are owners and managers of companies that have been operating for at least two years. Allowances will be made for e-businesses able to demonstrate a profitable business model.

The Northeast Ohio EOY awards banquet and ceremony will be held June 14, 2001, at The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. All of the national EOY award recipients and finalist will be announced and honored at a gala during the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year International Conference in Palm Springs, Calif., Nov. 15-18, 2001.

There is no fee for nominations. Self-nominations are encouraged, as are those from suppliers, customers and others who work with entrepreneurs. Nominations must be received by April 6, 2001, in order to be considered. For more information and nomination forms, call (216) 583-8301 or visit the Ernst & Young Web site at www.ey.com/us/eoy.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year award is also sponsored by BOWNE of Cleveland, Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, Marsh USA, McDonald Investments and the Ohio Department of Development.

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:48

Movers & Shakers

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Sandra Turner has been promoted to director of the National EY/Assist program, employee assistance and work/life resource and referral service of Ernst & Young LLP.

The Greater Cleveland Growth Association has added Carol A. Caruso and Christopher D. Hess to its government relations division.

Willis of Ohio, an international insurance broker and risk management consulting firm, has appointed D. Thomas Paterson to senior vice president.

Jennifer Kay Braman and Yuri R. Linetsky have joined Hahn Loeser + Parks LLP's Cleveland office as associates.

Russel B. Turell has been elected principal at McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Haiman Co. LPA. Colin G. Skinner, Paula A. Kuhn, Jason Seifert and Leslie W. Wargo have been named associates of the firm.

Adam Wallace has joined Flashline.com Inc. as chief information officer.

Hawk Corp. has appointed Woodrow "Woody" Haddix as president of the Hawk Powder Metal Group.

Midland Aluminum Corp. has appointed Kerry B. Hardin as a regional sales manager at Midland's Ohio operations.

Vincent J. D'Angelo, P.E., has joined R.E. Warner & Associates Inc. as project manager.

Metropolitan Bank & Trust has named Andy Kelly to the construction lending team.

Leslie Croy has joined Liggett-Stashower Inc. as vice president and general manager of Liggett Stashower Interactive, the agency's interactive account services group.

Arthur Andersen has promoted Christopher M. Essig to principal in the Tax Practice and Wayne K. Walker to principal in the Practice Management department in the Cleveland office.

The American Heart Association has appointed Kathleen McDermott as health communications manager for its Cleveland Metro Division.

Frank A. Carrino has been promoted to principal of Insurance Tax Services for the Cleveland office of Ernst & Young LLP.

Lake Hospital System has appointed Sunny Masters executive director of the Lake Hospital Foundation.

Peter F. Russ has joined HR Consulting of Northeast Ohio Ltd. as a senior consultant.

Vincent R. Kaval, principal of Medimetrix, and Peter H. Calfee, president of Calfee Financial Advisors, were elected as members of the David N. Meyers College Board of Trustees.

Parma Community General Hospital has appointed Donn Wolfson, M.D., as president of the hospital. Tom Sidor, M.D., will serve as president-elect, Diane Butler, M.D., as secretary, and Susan Longville, M.D., as treasurer. Ashok Argekar, M.D., Tim Gallagher, M.D. and Raju Modi, M.D. will serve as members-at-large.

Michael D. Gladish has been appointed managing director of information technology for AAA Motorist Association.

The investment banking firm of Brown, Gibbon, Lang & Co. has promoted Andrew K. Petryk as managing director and principal, Scott T. Berlin as senior vice president, Nir Gabriely as vice president and Jay Greyson as senior associate.

August Mack Environment Inc. has hired Kevin Savage as an account manager for its innovative guaranteed compliance program.

Lewis B. Frauenthal of Frauenthal-Newman & Co. was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Ambiance Incorporated has appointed Rick Henneman as district manager.

Steven H. Roesing, P.E., founder and CEO of @Industry Inc., was presented with the 2000 President's Award by the Solon Chamber of Commerce for exemplifying outstanding leadership and service.

The national law firm of Baker & Hostetler LLP has added Michelle M. Hervey, Leigh Houston, Jonathan J. Hunt, Bridget M. Meehan, Eric J. Steiner, Priya M. Travassos and Monica S. Verma as associates.

Christopher J. Carney, Cathryn R. Ensign and Matthew J. Stockslager have been elected shareholders at Brouse McDowell.

RE/MAX Crossroads has added Carol J. Woodard to the list of Top Producing real estate sales executives in the Westlake office.

Ceres Group Inc. has named T.J. Parrish as national sales director of its subsidiary, Continental General Insurance Co.

Licata & Associates Co. LPA has added David J. Kovach, Richard K. Heiser, Betty Sislak and Deanna Palerno to its firm.

McManamon & Co. LLC has promoted Barbara F. Sikon to director of tax services.

Steven Goykhberg, Capital Markets senior associate for SS&G Financial Services, has received his Certified Business Appraiser (CBA) Certification.

Rosemary Ramsey, Ph.D., interim Dean of the College of Business Administration at Cleveland State University, has been appointed to the board of directors of Sales & Marketing Executives of Cleveland (SME-Cleveland) and to the board of directors of NBA Cleveland Christian Home Inc.

Angela M. Plona has joined the collection department at Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co. LPA. Dean Talaganis has joined the foreclosure/real estate department.

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:15

Getting started

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Virtually all large companies, and many smaller businesses, have adopted and implemented substance abuse policies. If you are in that minority without a policy addressing this important issue, here are some suggestions for getting started.

B>Tailor the program to your company and employees.

Developing a drug policy is not a "one-size-fits-all" proposition. Different companies have different legal requirements. Some industries -- trucking, for example -- are subject to federal mandates in regard to drug testing. Industrial firms with employees operating heavy equipment will want to have more stringent policies than a service company with office staff.

B>Confer with your professional advisers -- in corporate risk management, human resources and legal counsel.

Drug testing and substance abuse policies should be integrated into your corporate risk and safety programs in order to be effective. They are also a vital part of the company's employee handbook. All records must be kept confidential. Link the substance abuse policy to the company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Commit to the policy.

Substance abuse programs and drug testing are only worthwhile, and legal, if uniformly and consistently applied. Disparate treatment of employees or of applicants for a position is a sure invitation for a lawsuit.

Understand the costs and benefits. Make an informed decision on the expenses of implementing a substance abuse program -- testing, reporting, follow-up. The benefits will be empirical as well as qualitative. Source: Gordon R. Friedrich, vice president and corporate counsel, The Reserves Network

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:12

Taking stock

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By now, there's no question that the U.S. economy is mired in an economic slowdown. While your specific industry may be strong, slowdowns are epidemic in nature and have a way of leaking into otherwise solid sectors.

Expectations drive consumer behavior. A mindset of limitations is replacing an attitude of abundance. As a result, people are hedging their bets and risking less.

All of this has put business owners in a precarious situation that they didn't experience during the roaring '90s. But your business doesn't have to stop growing just because the masses are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Here are 12 tactics to help ensure your business doesn't follow the downward trends.

B>Obtain warranty and maintenance contracts that extend the useful life of the status quo.

B>Offer programs/products and services that promise reduced costs and greater efficiency. They will be more attractive than those promising increased sales.

Recognize that channel power will go to those with paying customers or the ability to retain their margins.

Pick and choose your partners on both the supplier and the customer side. Loyalties and relationships of convenience/laziness will be broken. In times of stress, relationships either deepen or disappear. You can't be all things to all people.

Move cautiously. The transition from having not enough people to having too many people may be sudden. "Bargain-price" human resources can help increase customer service or search for new customers.

Focus on the PACER circles (best and highest use, target market and customer pain). As demand slows, every purchasing decision will be questioned. The practice of finding the best suppliers may be replaced by finding the one lowest cost supplier.

Be aggressive. As people become more risk-averse, selling on the basis of fear, uncertainty and doubt will be effective.

Target your bottom line. Capital goods will be harder to get approved by customer finance departments. If they are approved, they will be prioritized in the following order:

* Those that improve profits

* Those that increase sales

* Those that decrease production costs

* Those that decrease administrative costs

Utilize technology. When tech capability becomes greater than the market's capability to absorb it, prices falls when everyone beyond the early adopters stop buying it. The minute the technology isn't used, the value drops. Technology starts to be given away and revenue streams are devalued. Inevitably, the technology is adopted and price goes up, or, more likely, the next great thing replaces it as the cycle repeats itself.

Outsource part of your operations. Demand may or may not decrease, but the need to deliver your product or service doesn't.

Leverage goodwill if you've already created it with your customers.

Rethink the time vs. money tradeoff. People may have more time to spend on tasks they formerly might have paid others to perform.

While there is no surefire way to avoid a slowdown, if you're proactive in your approach, odds are you'll be better off than your not-so-prepared competitors. Andy Birol (abirol@pacerassociates.com) is president of PACER Associates Inc., a Solon-based firm that provides expert advice to owners and leaders who need to grow their businesses. He can be reached at (440) 349-1970 or at www.pacerassociates.com.

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:09

Love 'em or lose 'em

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The Employers Resource Council has long been known as a purveyor of advice on hiring practices.

So when it sent out a press release announcing the results of s survey entitled "Employee Expectations High, Employers Forced to Meet Demands," it was only trying to help.

But employers may not see it that way. What employer wants to offer higher wages? What manager likes to hear that he or she should offer more vacation time? What owner wants to pay for employees to take university classes? An owner who wants to stay competitive, according to Melissa Cassidy, director of the research center at ERC.

The study calculated the average costs to employers per new hire for both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing companies. According to the study, hourly employees in manufacturing industries cost $3,345 to replace in 2000. Salary nonexempt workers cost $5,819 to replace and salary exempt workers cost $15,433 to replace.

In nonmanufacturing businesses, hourly workers cost $2,525 to replace; salary nonexempt workers put a company back $5,819, while salary exempt workers cost $10,173.

The Alexander Hamilton Institute (AHI) Employment Resource Center offers advice on retaining employees, including tips on motivation, building morale, increasing employee self-worth, empowerment and communication. The following are tips on how to retain your employees.

Performance pick-me-up

Sometimes routines can get old, causing employees' motivation and performance to take a dive. Consider offering alternative work schedules.

The AHI advises, "Flexible work arrangements help employees to strike a balance between work and family, thereby improving productivity in your department." Examples include flextime, compressed workweeks or telecommuting.

Morale builder

The AHI advises employers to give employees high-profile responsibilities: "Employees will approach their responsibilities more enthusiastically if they know that their colleagues will see the results."

Another approach employers can use is to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand. According to AHI, employers can help by personally relieving an employee for one hour for a well-deserved break, for an extended lunch, or to allow the employee "simply to sit back and watch the boss perform one of their least favorite tasks."

Empowerment

Involve employees with decision-making. AHI advises that "by involving employees in the decision-making process, it not only frees up managerial time, it also gives employees a greater sense of responsibility and commitment."

Or create partnerships with employees. By giving them a vested interest in the company, they will feel more connected to their work. The AHI also suggests employers tear down status barriers, open company books and pay for performance.

The Web site www.keepem.com ("Getting good people to stay") warns employers that have yet to come out of the employment Dark Ages that they are in danger of losing employees.

"You have the power to greatly influence your employees' decisions about staying on your team. Show that you care about them and their needs. Remember them. Notice them. Listen to them. Thank them. Love them. Or lose them." How to reach: ERC, (216) 696-3636, www.ercnet.org

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:04

Keep employees off the DL

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In January, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Ergonomics Standard took effect to help stem the growing number of cases of musculoskeletal injuries among the nation's work force.

OSHA will start to enforce the standard in October, assuming the new presidential administration and Congress don't make any changes.

While workers' groups and labor unions applaud the new regulation, some major corporations and political groups representing business owners find the standard ambiguous and unnecessary.

The nation's 460,000 yearly musculoskeletal injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome cost businesses $9.1 billion each year. The fact is, most of the injuries could be easily prevented, says Dave Pfeil, president of Ergonomically Correct LLC in Middleburg Heights and an ergonomics expert who helps business owners design programs to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in office employees.

"When people begin to better understand their body, then they understand why they should put together an ergonomics program," Pfeil says.

He outlines several common musculoskeletal injuries that often plague office workers, and what you can do to avoid them.

Head and neck

Most of us who sit at a desk in front of a computer all day lean forward too far or slouch, causing our head to move out of its proper position over the shoulders. The average human head weighs 12 to 13 pounds, so if it's not correctly positioned, it can put a strain on muscles and tendons in the neck and back.

"If I were to give you a 13-pound bowling ball and ask you to hold it in front of your body, you would get tired very quickly, wouldn't you?" Pfeil says. "Leaning forward is going to cause problems."

Eyes

Most of us don't gaze softly at our monitor screens. We stare, concentrating on the words, numbers or images on the screen.

During a one-on-one conversation, people blink an average of 22 times a minute. When staring at a computer screen, blinks drop to seven times a minute, leading to eyestrain and reduced energy.Wrists

Most desks, even in the computer age, are 29 inches high. Why? Well, it's an unproven theory that during the '50s, ergonomics tests were performed on U.S. Army solders to determine the ideal height of a writing desk. That turned out to be 29 inches.

The problem is, not everybody is built like a U.S. Army soldier, and many people must reach too high to type on their keyboards. If your keyboard legs are extended, you're doing three times the damage to your carpal tunnel.

"You alter the workstation, you don't alter the person," Pfeil says. "The minute you try to alter the person, you take them out of their natural position, because your elbows should be down close to your side."

Back

Make sure the chair at your desk allows you to sit with your head over your shoulders and to have your elbows comfortably placed at your sides.

A sure sign that you're not sitting properly is the need to stand up and walk around due to tightness or pain in your back. How to reach: Ergonomically Correct, (216) 676-6884; OSHA, (312) 353-2220

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.