When the Internet boom was going full force, we began investigating ways to use Internet technology to better serve our audience -- top decision-makers of local companies. As we were putting the finishing touches on our plan, the bubble burst.
Undaunted, we moved forward with our vision of building a Web site that not only met the needs of busy executives but did so profitably. The revised SBN Online (www.sbnonline.com), launched as a pilot site in our Cleveland market, has met both our goals.
Each subscriber to SBN Cleveland has been pre-registered for SBN Online. By using the user ID and password we supplied by mail, readers can activate their registration and get a personalized home page containing local business news and information relevant to them. Our database of thousands of articles, ideas and resources is filtered using a reader's profile, resulting in the display of news, events, presentations and other information that best matches the profile.
The response has been great. We are ahead of our projections for users and site activity, though SBN Online is only a few months old. We are so pleased with the success that we plan to expand the concept to other cities this summer.
As I look back on what it has taken to relaunch SBN Online, a number of important lessons stand out.
1. Stick to what (and who) you know. We spent a great deal of time and money researching our concept for SBN Online. What became clear is that while we may not be concentrating on the biggest market, we are concentrating on the best market. Middle-market companies account for only 10 percent of all businesses, but they boast nearly half of all corporate revenue and purchasing power.
2. Work within a budget. In the headiest days of the Internet boom, we were quoted incredible prices for products and services. While many of these offers would have met our needs, we continued to look for the right deals with the right partners.
3. Stay the course. Even as events conspired against us, we pressed forward. The bursting of the Internet bubble had everyone rethinking the role of the Internet for businesses. As the economy weakened, more doubts crept into people's minds. Then came the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Each one of these developments could have caused us to put the project on hold. Instead, we made adjustments and kept moving forward.
Having done these things, SBN Online was reborn even as the bursting of the Internet bubble caused other business Web sites to fold or take significant steps backward.
If you haven't registered for SBN Online, I encourage you to do so soon. If you receive SBN Magazine under your name, you were sent a user ID and password. If you've misplaced it, e-mail your name, business and address to email@example.com and we will reply, or call us at (216) 228-6397 and ask for SBN Online customer service.
And please let us know what you think. We already are at work on improvements and welcome your feedback.
Ron Shaw realized what a gift life is just moments after a Philadelphia trolley car sped by inches away from his head on an icy winter evening in l947. Shaw, who changed his name from Schurowitz when he entered show business several years later, was often a victim of anti-Semitic bullying by neighborhood kids.
That fateful afternoon, Shaw was on his way home from school when a group of boys surrounded, taunted and beat him until one of them tossed him into a icy street just as a trolley car approached. Shaw, who slipped and fell past the trolley car's tracks, has been inspired by the incident ever since.
"I don't know if God meant for me to live because there was work he wanted me to do or if it was just a fluke," Shaw writes in his book, "Pilot Your Life." "But somehow, for whatever reason, I survived."
This childhood tale is just one of the harrowing and entertaining anecdotes in Shaw's book, which chronicles his rise from an 11-year-old stand-up comedian to Bic Pen salesman to the leader of the Pilot Pen Corp. of America, the nation's third largest pen company with more than $200 million in annual sales.
The book's business lessons about selling yourself, creating opportunities, taking risks and marketing your product could've been pulled from any of hundreds of positive-thinking or motivational tomes, but Shaw's charm, sense of humor and great stories outweigh the occasional lack of original insight. And for so many of the business books out there, you can't ask for much more.
Shaw spoke with SBN Magazine during his book tour and was as candid and entertaining as he is in his book.
You've made a lot of transitions in your life, from comedian to pen salesmen to CEO, and then jumping to your competition. How did you know when to move?
When I was making that transition, I didn't have much choice. I needed a steady paycheck because I was just kind of floundering around and not sure what I wanted to do. I got married, and within one year, nine months and three days from our wedding day, our first son, Steve, was born. So I picked up the book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. It made me concentrate on what it was I was doing at that point and what I wanted to do. If I had to be out of show business, then damn it, I was going to become a success in whatever it was I was going to do. I lived in five different cities when I worked for Bic Pen. I started with them in Miami, then Atlanta, followed by Chicago, Detroit and Connecticut. It was not an easy transition. But it (sales) was coming so easily to me that when Bic would have weekly sales contests, every week I was at the top. Once that light went on and I recognized what it was, it made it even easier to concentrate and realize that I was born to be a salesman.
How do you sell yourself?
I think it's the way you dress, the way you come on, the way you walk into a room or make an exit. You walk onto the stage with an air of confidence, not cockiness. You've got to have a pleasant look about you and can't take an attitude of 'I'm better than you.' It's that instant reaction. People do judge books by their covers. As soon as you see somebody, you make an opinion based upon the impression.
What is your secret for growing Pilot?
In 1975, (when I joined the firm), there was hardly anyone that heard of Pilot. My job was to make it into a brand. When I told the president of Bic that I was going to work for Pilot, he said, 'Six months from now, you'll be looking for another job. You'll get it up to $10 million a year but it's not going beyond that.' As we're approaching $200 million this year, he's no longer with Bic. It was a matter of razzle-dazzle marketing. It was bringing things to the industry that had never been done before. I took advantage of my former life as a performer. I met with this young ad agency and said,'Let's do humor to get people's attention.' We would go out to our customers and say, 'Buy a gross of our pens and you'll get a Samsonite briefcase absolutely free.' We did travel contests. Those are some of the things that you can't really do today because the smaller wholesalers have been wiped out by big box retailers. All of a sudden we built a brand. I'm happy to brag that we are now the third biggest pen company in America. How to reach: "Pilot Your Life," by Ron Shaw, Prentice Hall Press, $22. Available at bookstores everywhere.
How to reach: Harding and Harding, (330) 666-0991
ACCOUNTING & CONSULTING
Gary Shamis, managing director of SS&G Financial Services, was awarded the "On the Edge Innovation Award" by the Leading Edge Alliance at its annual meeting in Naples, Fla.
Joanna Eggett has been promoted to associate director of the Cleveland outsourcing department at SS&G Financial Services. Jeffrey Muencz was promoted to associate director of the Cleveland accounting and auditing department and Christopher Szuch was promoted to associate director of the Akron accounting and auditing department.
Maple Alley Market Research LLC moved from Chesterland to the Fowler's Mill area of Chardon.
Christina Callos, president of Callos Consulting Group, has been certified to instruct "The Seven Laws for Engaging Spirit in the Workplace."
Marinko Milos was elected president of the Cleveland chapter of the Ohio Society of Certified Public accountants for Howard, Wershbale & Co.
Rob Johnson has been promoted to senior manager of Meaden & Moore. John J. Nicklas has been promoted to senior manager.
Lauren B. Wolf has joined Barnes Wendling CPAs Inc. as director of the nonprofit and public sector resource center. David R. Menning has joined as principal and manager of corporate finance group.
ADVERTISING & PR
Stephen F. Lee has been named senior vice president of Marcus Thomas LLC. Phil Johnston has been named senior vice president of the planning group and Jennifer Hirt-Marchand has been named vice president of the research group.
Ron Oberstar has been named national accounts manager-graphic arts at Eckart America.
Michelle Lee has joined Dix & Eaton's eVentures practice.
Arnold & Co. was honored by the Printing Industries Association of Northern Kentucky and Ohio for printing excellence.
Stephen Phillips, Beth Mehlberth and Martha West have been promoted to vice president of Edward Howard & Co.
The Culbertson Group added the Sandusky/Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau to its portfolio of clients.
Dorsky Hodgson + Partners has named Sandy Silverman, Victor Yue and Regis Korba as partners.
BANKING & FINANCE
Eric M. Earvin has been promoted to vice president, credit policy/credit risk management, at FirstMerit Bank. Michael E. Miller has been promoted to vice president.
Timothy S. Brimus has been promoted to vice president and controller of First Federal, Lakewood. Steve Nogle was promoted to vice president and MIS director and David T. Shaw was promoted to vice president and chief savings officer .
Michael J. Gorman joined Northeastern Ohio's Fifth Third Bank as vice president of the private banking department.
Michael A. Fixler was named firm director of Candlewood Partners LLC.
Edward R. Turza has been appointed branch manager of Lakewood First Federal.
Rade Marich has joined FirstMerit Bank Cleveland as a business banker.
Polaris Career Center's Business Resource Center received certification as an ISO 9000 registered facility and can offer ISO standard educational services.
Alan Valek was appointed director of buildings and grounds at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
James Kozel has been named development office of individual and planned giving at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Mary Schiller has joined the voice faculty and Barrick Stees joined the bassoon faculty.
John Polk has been appointed director of the entrepreneurs association at John Carroll University.
The Krill Co. Inc. completed renovation of the Agnar Pytte Center for Science Education and Research at Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. Tarvez Tucker and Dr. Jennifer S. Kriegler have joined the American Migraine Center.
Susan Tyler has been named executive vice president and chief financial officer of Medical Mutual.
Jack Pompei was promoted to Northeast Ohio branch manager for CorVel Corp.
Elizabeth Mullins has been named general manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland.
A-1 Mr. Limo added A Bridal Boutique to its limousine service offerings.
The Reserves Network received the NEO Success Award. The work force solution company also acquired the Barclay Staffing Group of Westlake.
Cefaratti Group relocated its corporate offices to 4608 St. Clair Ave.
Jason Walters is the new agency chief information officer of Gale Financial Group.
Thomas W. Hess has become chairperson of Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP Health Law Practice Group.
Gregory J. Blasiman was promoted to senior manager of Bruner-Cox LLP, Canton office.
Douglas V. Bartman has become a principal in Kahn, Kleinman, Yanowitz & Arnson.
Sergio Carano and Connie Carr have joined Kohrman Jackson & Krantz PLL.
Pam VanHoose has been promoted to controller at Greer Steel Co. Robert Ulbrich has been promoted to general manager.
Kevin E. Trainor joined the M.F Cachat Co. as eastern region sales manager.
3-D Services Ltd. purchased the 85,000-square-foot Massillon Industrial Equipment Service Center from Grand Eagle Inc.
David Bell was named Cleveland regional sales representative for Ely Enterprises Inc.
Darlene Constant was hired as school-based mentoring coordinator of Big Brothers Big Sister of Greater Cleveland.
PuppyPaws Inc. received the 2001 Pinnacle Award from Pet Age Magazine for its pet-themed jewelry.
Paragon Data Systems was recertified as a full-service Zebra authorized service provider for 2002.
Jason Schultz and Mike Miller have joined Great Lakes Cos. as account executives.
On March 7, the SBN Magazine eVolution in Manafacturing Conference presented by CAMP honored nine Northeast Ohio companies for their achievements in integrating e-business solutions into traditional manfacturing processes. The companies displayed their e-business solutions at a conference at the CAMP Manufacturing and Technology Center on East 25th Street in Cleveland. The event was sponsored by Ameritech SBC, Crowe Chizek and Ulmer & Berne LLP.
Left photo: Dr. Stephen Gage of CAMP (center) presents the award to Don Sebiant and Paul Harty of ArgoTech.
Right photo: Dr. Gage with Sarp Uzkan and Stewart Armstrong of Danley IEM.
Left photo: Dr. Gage congratulates Jim Appledorn and Beckie Jacobs of Lincoln Electric as Smart Business Network CEO Fred Koury looks on.
Right photo: Linda Bowman and Sandy Richard of Little Tikes enjoy their honor.
Left photo: Cindy Skelton-Becker and Holly Mihok of Nordson.
Right photo: Tom Gubanc and Dave O'Connor of Swagelok.
Dr. Stephen Gage of CAMP with Wes Howard and Chad Shron of Tooling University.
Michael A. Lachman and E. Fred Leffler of USB.
As claims processing supervisor for Little Tikes Co., a toy manufacturer in Hudson, she had to sort through stacks of files looking for invoice documents to settle a claim from a customer. Even though the Little Tikes headquarters was organized, it took a while to look through all those papers.
"I used to spend hours and hours and hours looking for this stuff," says Rickard. "Imaging finds it in a heartbeat."
Little Tikes' document imaging system has streamlined its customer claims processing. All order, shipment and invoice-related documents are scanned and sorted on magnetic and optical disks for quick display and retrieval. Shipping and billing disputes between the company and its hundreds of retailers are resolved in seconds instead of hours or even days.
Manufacturing still relies on a lot of paper documentation for transactions. Often the bill of lading number doesn't match the invoice number or purchase order number. With imaging, Rickard can search for the order in question using 20 fields archived to 1992.
The archive is useful because a customer can make a claim on a shipping or pricing error up to four years after it received the toys. In the past, customers wouldn't realize they had already filed a claim on the order years ago and ended up getting double compensation for the error.
That doesn't happen anymore.
"It's important in claims that whoever has the best documentation is going to win a claim," Rickard says. "If you don't have the proper documentation, you lose. That just means you're losing money."
Little Tikes' move to document imaging started in 1991, when it computerized invoices and bills of lading. The next year, the claims process was automated.
"I discovered that of my four people, all four of us spent one half of our day looking for documents," Rickard says. "That alone more than paid just for that part of the project because of the lost time and energy looking for paper."
The system rapidly improved productivity among Rickard's staff. The number of claims was reduced from 8,000 in 1995 to 400 in 2001.
That reduction is primarily due to improved reporting. Based on the claims information, Little Tikes department chiefs can use reports to find process holes in order fulfillment and shipment.
"There are a lot of claims we pay where we don't lose money, it's just a return," Rickard says. "But there were claims that show us we lost money through error on somebody's part internally here. And it has meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue that we have recaptured."
Little Tikes' ability to improve order fulfillment and reduce errors through its document management system has earned it an eVolution in Manufacturing Award.
In the future, Little Tikes will convert to electronic bills of lading to further eliminate paper, says Linda Bowman, Little Tikes' manager of information systems.
When a truck driver picks up a shipment in the warehouse, he or she will use a digital signature pad to sign for the paperwork. That signature will be printed onto the paperwork for the driver and e-mailed into the imaging system so Rickard will have immediate access to that shipment.
Time-consuming document scanning will be cut anywhere from 50 to 75 percent. How to reach: Little Tikes Co. (330) 650-3000 or www.littletikes.com
Officials at Danly, a multimillion dollar die manufacturer, recognized three key areas of opportunity:
* Utilize e-commerce to expand the reach of Danly's products and market over the Internet.
* Make it easier for customers to do business with the company.
* Reduce the transaction cost of processing an order.
"The end solution was a business-to-business e-commerce site that is completely integrated into our back office," says Sarp Uzkan, director of information systems at Danly. "The customer doesn't need a catalog or to even talk to a salesperson. They can go find the product they need on the Internet and place an order."
Today, the site, www.danly.com, lists 95 percent of the 8,000 parts the company sells, and that number continues to grow. Five percent of orders originate through the Web.
Uzkan says that early last year, after the site relaunched, it received more sales than anyone had imagined.
"It's given us the opportunity to take orders from countries where we have no sales reps," says Uzkan. "We've gotten leads from new customers in areas we hadn't tapped into."
Information taken from the Web site is sent to the sales department for follow-up. As the economy worsened, these leads became more valuable, and selling online has opened up new geographic areas and industries for the company.
Danly also added tools to the site to provide customers with as much information as possible, making it easier to do business with the company. A study in 1999 showed that 30 percent of all calls to the company concerned order status and tracking numbers. As a result, it made this information available online, along with product pricing, availability and CAD drawings.
"We know the way our customers buy products," says Uzkan. "Many of them like to shop around and find the right price. This fits those customers' needs because all the information they need is online."
The e-commerce applications have also minimized costs. Orders generated from the Web are transmitted directly into the company's back office system without human intervention. The product is taken off the shelf and shipped immediately.
Danly also got more value out of its EDI technology by applying the same processes to the e-commerce platform.
"We're not adding value to our customers while we are transacting or processing their orders," says Uzkan. "The more we can automate, the more we can take out costs or waste in the chain."
When a manufacturer emphasize direct sales, distributors typically start to worry, seeing it as a threat to their income. But Danly, which makes about one-third of its sales through its distributors, has invited them to join the e-commerce party.
"We have created a Web site for our distributors to sell our products or any others over the Web without going through a lengthy implementation," says Uzkan. "We are actually hosting some of our distributors' sites and making a little money on it."
As a result, distributors can quickly set up a site to sell their products over a system that's ready to go without investing in hardware, software or consulting. Better yet, Danly helps them sell more of their products. How to reach: Danley IEM, (440) 239-7600
The life-long resident of Cleveland and product of the Cleveland Public School System was one of only 15 minorities in her graduating class at Case Western Reserve University. She was one of the few women elected to the city's prosecutor's office and one of the youngest judges to take the bench in Ohio.
She then went on to be the first African-American woman elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.
In her position in the U.S. Congress representing Ohio's 11th District, Tubbs Jones champions small and minority-owned businesses. SBN Magazine sat down with her to discuss what the government has done and should do to support business owners.
There's been a lot of attention on large national corporations, but what is this administration doing to help smaller business and struggling communities that may not get as much press?
I sponsored an amendment that has to do with disaster loans for small businesses ... to amend that legislation to allow credit unions to administer the disaster loans. Traditionally, member credit unions have not been able to do so, in part because it was believed they had a restricted membership, so it wouldn't allow everyone to come to the table.
My reasoning, however, was that there are many communities where there are no financial or banking institutions as we know it. In some areas, a credit union is the only financial institution. To allow small business to access this money -- that would be the only route.
Also, many traditional financial institutions have taken the position that the loans are too small, that the cost of administration is too great. Therefore, many areas just don't have access to this much-needed help.
Are there other programs that the Committee on Small Business, of which you are a member, is working on?
Helping businesses access government contracts is one of the things we've been battling. The issues include contract bundling. The government makes contracts so enormous that only really large corporations can access them.
In the three years I've been in Congress, I have been working on behalf of small businesses to stop the bundling process so anyone can come to the table. It's not legislation. It has more to do with SBA and government agency procedures than any legislation.
It's the constant reminder to the agencies, the procurement officers, that bundling of contracts has a detrimental impact on the ability of small businesses to work with the government.
What is this administration doing to address minority- and women-owned business issues?
I am committed to economic empowerment. When I leave Congress, I want people to remember it is what I worked on. And the reason economic empowerment is so important to me is because I believe it's the equalizer. I think it's the way to make sure those women and minorities have an opportunity to have equal access.
And I'm working on wealth building in terms of home ownership, in terms of predatory lending.
You're a role model. Talk about how you've been successful.
I was always a hard worker because I knew that how I fared would impact how other women and other minorities would be treated in the process. I sought out and found great support, too, through relationships with city judges, male and female, white and black, to help me through the process.
In my position now, I have a great staff that I rely heavily on. And because I travel frequently between Cleveland and D.C., being able to communicate is extremely important.
I make use of current technology, too. I'm trying to go paperless, which is really a difficult process, but I use this Blackberry (remote network management tool) a lot. It has my schedule on it, my phone numbers, and I can even e-mail from it.
How to reach: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, (216) 522-4900
(Downs) to AccuSpray. The Bedford Heights paint spray equipment manufacturer's recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was due, in large part, to expensive warranty-related issues surrounding a defective product. While investors believe the company should emerge from bankruptcy, they also admit the mistake could have been avoided by extensive pre-market release testing.
(Ups) to Athersys founder Gil Van Bokkelen. As biotechnology begins to take center stage as a key component to Ohio's business future, Van Bokkelen's firm is getting endorsements from high places including Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Let's hope the thumbs ups sparks greater investment and leads to new industry jobs.
(Downs) to U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr. No matter what the outcome of his bribery trial, voters in his newly redrawn district should send a message on Election Day. Despite the maverick politician's outlaw charm, something doesn't smell right in Denmark, I mean the Mahoning Valley.
(Ups) to Southwest General Health Center. The UHHS-member hospital received the top five-star rating for treatment of heart attacks by a consumer health rating service. HealthGrades compared Southwest's services against more than 5,000 hospitals nationwide.