Biotech may not provide jobs for the masses, but Dr. Gary Procop, head of clinical biology at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, knows his work will affect local businesses and average Americans alike. Procop specializes in pathology, but it's his subspecialty, clinical microbiology, that is creating interest at diagnostic labs.
"There is new technology that is allowing a diagnosis to be made much more rapidly and with an equal or higher degree of accuracy than has ever been possible before," explains Procop.
The Clinic has approximately 125 staff investigators and annual research expenditures of more than $70 million.
It is one of the largest private research facilities in the nation.
The hot technology to hit the Clinic's labs is Rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction, or Rapid PCR. With Rapid PCR, a clinical biologist can identify an organ or gene by amplifying the DNA.
This is the same technology used today in the newly developed rapid anthrax test.
Even a very minute amount of an infecting organism can be detected with Rapid PCR. Quicker DNA analysis means quicker diagnosis and quicker treatment. Says Procop, "It all really hinges on the right diagnosis in the lab."
For example, Legionella, the primary cause of Legionares disease, previously took 10 days for a cultural analysis. With Rapid PCR, doctors can have an answer in less than an hour.
The clinical microbiology lab at the Clinic is conducting tests with up-and-coming equipment, such as the the Smart Cycler by Cepheid, which is designed to provide Rapid PCR results by merging microelectronics and molecular biology.
The Clinic is also developing its own marketable test methodology through its Innovations Department, the marketing side of the Clinic, which protects intellectual property developments.
Tests methods developed in Procop's lab are in use at a Cincinnati hospital and are currently being studied at Ohio State University.
One of the most expensive aspects of healthcare is hospitalization. The quicker patients are able to return home, the lower overall average treatment cost.
"No doubt about it…if you can make a quick, accurate diagnosis, get accurate treatment started, you can get people out of the hospital faster, it translates into cost savings," says Procop.
So where is the future of health care headed?
Better delivery. Faster analysis. Better results. Lower costs. And it's moving there quicker every day.
How to reach:The Cleveland Clinic, www.clevelandclinic.org
Document management would be great if you could afford it, right? Odds are, you might already have the needed equipment in place, you just need to connect them together.
"Most of the time, companies have what they need to improve document management," says David Fazekas, vice president of the Great Lakes region for Xerox Connect. Many of today's copiers are multi-functional devices that can print, fax, scan and store documents.
"Once a device gets hooked into a network, you have a device that can do the job of what 10 to 12 printers can do," says Fazekas.
Printers are cheap because companies are making money on the supplies -- money that comes out of your pocket. If you can consolidate multiple printers into one device, supply expenses should drop.
"Some companies never budgeted a line item for printer supplies," says Fazekas. "It was just lumped into office supplies, so they didn't realize how much they were spending."
Savings can reach $5,000 per person in some environments, which means that even if you don't have the necessary equipment in place, leasing or buying it may prove cost effective if you have high print volumes.
Using a few multifunctional devices rather than a combination of copiers, fax machines, printers and scanners also allows your maintenance costs to be consolidated to one vendor.
"About 90 percent of the companies we work with have found that they would benefit from document management," says Fazekas. "A CFO can see real cost savings. If we remove five printers that cost $6,000 in supplies annually and aren't being used to their capacity and route documents through one machine that has the capacity, the savings become apparent."
With document management, the need to print many documents is completely eliminated. Expense reports, for example, can be scanned in along with any necessary documentation and signed electronically. Those files are then sent through the network to the administrator who processes them. The documents are stored in case of the need of an audit or if additional changes are needed.
"You simply use technology that's available to be more efficient," says Fazekas. "Just look at your specific business processes and teach people they don't need to be making all those copies."
The other advantage to document management is that it sets the table for knowledge management -- a process where a company is essentially storing all its data in one central database.
"It gets what's in people's heads and what's in the file drawers and creates a culture where everyone opens up and shares information," says Fazekas. "It will be the next big technology migration. It's coming slower to market because of the economy right now.
"The key to this is, in an economy where cost savings is important, everyone should be looking at document management. It saves money and sets the table for knowledge management later on."
Follow these office energy saving tips from the Energy Idea Clearinghouse in Olympia, Wash. and watch your utility bills decrease.
* Avoid using incandescent task lights (desk lamps). Ask your building manager for a compact fluorescent lamp to replace the incandescent lamp in your task light. Also replace halogen torchiere floor lamps with compact fluorescent models.
* Turn off lights when out of your office or cubicle. Also turn off lights in unused common areas such as copy rooms, break rooms, conference rooms and restrooms. The effect on lamp life and energy use when turning the lamp back on is negligible.
* Consider delamping – many ballasts may operate fewer lamps without damage.
Heating and cooling
* Sitting close to a window during the cloudy winter can make you feel cold. If so, close blinds or shades or move further from the window.
* In the winter, close blinds at the end of the day to cut down on heat loss. In the summer, close blinds during the day to avoid the heat gain of direct sunlight.
* Some large spaces may be operated cooler if you provide a spot radiant electric heater focused on the occupant. Turn the heater off when away from your work station.
* Turn off your computer monitor when you are away from your desk for more than 15 minutes. Most monitors come with power management features; talk to your staff's computer expert about activating these features. Note that screen savers don't save energy; complex screen savers actually increase energy use.
* Eliminate unnecessary hot plates, coffeepots, and other small appliances in your area and turn off all tools, office machines and portable appliances when not in use. If you're the last one leaving at the end of the day, turn off the photocopiers and other office equipment.
* Less frequently used equipment with remote controls such as televisions and VCRs should be unplugged when not in use because they still use some power even when turned off.
Arras Group President Jim Hickey fondly recalls his first "trust fall." For the uninitiated, a "trust fall," is simply where you stand on a chair or a table with a group of people standing behind you, their arms outstretched in front of them. You close your eyes, fall back, and "trust" that the people behind will catch you.
Only in this case, Hickey wasn't the one falling. It was Gino, a towering, 400-pound ex-gang member who worked for the Simmons Mattress Co. Simmons is one of Arras' clients and Hickey visited the company in Springfield, Mass. during a staff building exercise called "The Great Game Of Life," designed by Wilson Consulting in Vail, Colo.
Gino, who went to the event claiming that he "doesn't trust anybody and never would," departed the day of group bonding activities closer to his coworkers and with a genuine feeling of trust.
"Everybody was hugging everybody, charged up and ready to go back and make a difference," says Hickey, who participated in the activities. "After the evening, Gino said it was one of the best things they ever did. For a guy who wouldn't trust anybody his whole life to climb a ladder, close his eyes, cross his arms and fall backwards into a group of his coworkers – to do a real trust fall—was extraordinary to witness."
Hickey was so impressed with the "Great Game Of Life," activities and the effect it had on the Simmons staff that he decided to bring it back to Cleveland for his 62-member marketing communications firm.
The three-day event, which started on Thursday this week, involves a ropes course where workers will climb and traverse various challenges on an obstacle course about 35-feet in the air. They wear safety harnesses attached to ropes, which are run through a guide wire and then down to the ground where another coworker holds onto it. As the employees travel across the ropes the course, they shout commands to their coworker below so they are prepared when they attempt more difficult maneuvers.
"On belay!" shouts the climber.
"Belay on!" the belayer responds.
Hickey he says he chose this type of activity to help his staff work more cohesively as a team, and to encourage them to take intelligent risks in their jobs and not let fear hold them back.
"I think they'll see that there's really little to fear outside their comfort zones," Hickey says. "And that's what it's meant to do: Push them outside their comfort zones."
The next day, the Arras staff will meet and discuss their experiences, what they felt, and how they can apply what they learned about themselves and their team to their daily work lives.
"Ultimately, we want our people to be thrilled to be here, to feel that it's a positive in their lives, and that it demonstrates how important they are to us," Hickey says. "In a slowing economy, we think this is absolutely the best time to do this. It's about leaning into the headwind."
So what can you do to ensure the best chance possible of finding cash for a new venture or business expansion? Make sure your funding proposal includes the following:
High growth rate With today's economic conditions, venture capital groups look for projected annual sales growth of 25 percent or more if your company is either launching a new product line or expanding into a new marketplace.
Clear strategy for commercialization Just because your business currently is successful with its sales and marketing approach doesn't mean you can simply duplicate the formula. However, if your market research backs up the contention that you can, show it. If not, develop a strong strategic plan.
Barriers to entry Be sure to show potential capital sources that your company can discourage competition in the new market you're entering. It can be as simple as being several years ahead of any competitors or as complicated as a trade secret, patented product or proprietary process.
The hectic pace of the silicon gold rush has also caused some spectacular crashes, all because of a lack of fundamental business sense.
""There's a lot of things coming together that is creating an environment where we're all moving fast,"" says Dorothy Langer, president of Langer and Co., a Boston-based strategy consulting firm. ""When you move fast, you don't have time for planning, and planning is among one of the more important things that companies aren't doing.
""If you're not planning, you're not thinking long term.""
The speed of business may not allow you plan in the traditional sense, but you can still plan to some degree, even if it means not dotting every i and crossing every t.
"You need to plan, or else you're not thinking through your decision process -- you're not forecasting events that could change your business," says Langer. "You'll have no contingency plans, you could hire too many people and suddenly realize you don't need them. There is a lot of poor execution going on."
Some of the problems come from the relatively young management teams that companies -- especially Internet companies -- have leading them. The labor shortage also means there's not a lot of talent to be found when building a team.
Because of this, the customer isn't being served well, and people aren't being put in place to handle problems. Internet businesses are currently trying to find a business model that works. Smaller companies used to have the Internet to themselves, but now all the large corporations have jumped into it with their resources. These old economy companies have made mistakes, as well.
"They're not making the same mistakes," says Langer. "If anything, they make mistakes on the side of being too conservative. Their problem is they don't understand the Internet or the people using it."
Langer's bottom line: You have to have long-term financial, product and marketing strategies that are constantly revisited. When you have a plan and a framework, when something changes externally, you'll understand where you're at and where you have to change.
"Before St. Jude's, the survival rate was 4 percent," says Lewis, president of Family Heritage Life Insurance. "Today, those rates are up to 80 percent survival."
Lewis' passionate devotion to St. Jude's, as well as a number of other cancer and cancer-related causes, is contagious. To date, his company's cumulative giving to St. Jude's is more than $500,000. But he does more than give money to a cause; he also promotes awareness and will hold next year's company meeting at the hospital to underscore the importance of St. Jude's work.
Family Heritage's commitment to St. Jude's is just one of the reasons Lewis and his firm were honored with a 2001 Pillar Award for Community Service. Family Heritage is also actively involved with Daffodil Days, a program in which Family Heritage employees deliver flowers to cancer patients at the Cleveland Clinic. And throughout the year, sales agents are encouraged to wear caps and pins in the field to promote awareness of National Cancer Survivor Day.
Lewis and his employees have an intimate knowledge of the problems associated with prolonged and critical illnesses. The company sells supplemental insurance, including cancer, intensive care and accident insurance. This brings him and his staff face to face with the devastating effects of cancer and other diseases every day.
Not long ago, Lewis founded the Lou Massey Memorial Fund after Massey, one of Lewis' workers, lost his battle with brain cancer. Each year for one week, Family Heritage drives donations to the nonprofit fund that was specifically created to help affiliates and family members who suffer from cancer and cancer-related illnesses.
Lewis and his senior management are the driving force behind the company's giving culture. In fact, Lewis even ties company success to giving. The 200 sales agents that work mostly out of the main office aren't let off the hook. The better sales are each month for Family Heritage salespeople, the higher the amount of the donation the company makes in each salesperson's name.
For example, at the end of the year, donations to Toys for Tots are tied to sales numbers. It's a program that continues to expand.
"We had 10 major outreach programs this year and we have 12 for next year," says Lewis.
And, Lewis says, talk is cheap. That's why he and other senior managers are involved in outreach projects such as Harvest for Hunger's month-long campaign. He divides his company into teams and builds incentives to encourage giving.
"Outreach is part of the culture," he says. "They know that it is expected, but people have responded to what we have promoted."
Another program involves teams of employees and their families, who donate time and financial resources to health-related causes. Called the "For a Healthy Life" team, they solicit donations from sales incentive programs to support National Donor Day, Easter Seals, the National Day of Prayer, the American Red Cross and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There's one more motivating factor behind Family Heritage's culture of wanting to give back -- every year, Lewis puts on a black tie event, at which he gives a recognition award to the employee who best exemplifies outreach work and philanthropy. It has, he says, become very competitive.
"The award is all about what you have done in outreach," Lewis says, "regardless of sales or other work."
How to reach: Family Heritage Life Insurance Company, (216) 520-2800
Kim Palmer (email@example.com) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.
Three years ago, this is exactly where Hopkins Printing found itself. We were faced with the dilemma of expanding or doing less business.
Doing less business was not an option. Therefore, we were left with the options of buying an existing facility and converting it into a printing plant or designing and building a new facility specific for our needs. We decided to build a new facility.
To continue to give our customers quality service and remain competitive and technologically savvy, developing a facility specific for printing plants was the best decision. However, I didn't want to rush into the building process and skip the planning. For two years, we researched and planned the expansion and move.
I worked with a consultant who specializes in printing plant layout and design. I discovered John Geis, consultant engineer, A.J. Geis & Associates, Chapel Hill, N.C., while reading his book, "Printing Plant Layout & Facility Design."
Since Geis is an expert in my field, he understood the competitiveness of printing firms and our technology requirements and was able to implement solutions to our specific needs. Geis did not just listen to my suggestions and comments -- he spent several hours working with managers and supervisors to gain an understanding of the current situation and the projected outcome.
After he reviewed the types of printing we were doing, Geis created a floor layout of the proposed plant and made cut-outs of our equipment, allowing us to see how each processing line would be set up and how printing projects would be transported from one operation to another. We also could see how it would be possible to place new equipment as we grew the business.
Throughout these discussions, we discovered our workflow needed a better design. We wanted our employees to work comfortably and efficiently, and believed there was room for improvement. Geis solved this problem by strategically placing the equipment and offices so they interact.
Building a new facility allowed for us to purchase the latest technology equipment, so the $5 million building project was accompanied by $3 million in new equipment.
I want the business to grow but I did not want to build a new facility every five years. Since I expect to add 50 positions over the next three to five years, I needed to make sure there was room to expand.
Geis was able to place our offices and equipment in areas that allow for expansion without upsetting the workflow. When the time comes to expand, I already know where we'll place the first phase.
If you are a business owner, I know you're thinking about the cost of a consultant. It cost us less than $8,000 to use one for this project. The cost of change orders can be expensive if changes are made once the project is started; it is more efficient to have a working model before starting.
The advantage of having consultants who are experts in your industry is that they bring the experience of others to your project. This type of consultant can share the successes and failures that he or she has witnessed. I firmly believe that working with a consultant increased my company's productivity 10 percent.
I also believe that if companies can design a useful and efficient building, they will get back the cost of the consultant many times over the original investment. Jim Hopkins is president of Hopkins Printing, a 24-year-old Columbus-based commercial printing firm. He can be reached at 509-1080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The standard included new workplace regulations and practices to curb the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders, primarily in the back, shoulders, neck and wrists of workers. Unions and workers groups applauded the standard, but many lawmakers and business groups claimed it would place another unfunded economic burden on businesses.
"It would've had a very high compliance cost, and there really wasn't good cost-benefit analysis of the benefits of the rules," says J. Donald Mottley, a former four-term Ohio state representative and now an attorney at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. "In many cases, there would have been a relatively small reduction in injuries, and of those reductions, they would have been among the minor injuries."
But just because the government suspended the rules doesn't mean business owners should forget about the problem. Musculoskeletal disorders still cause about 1 million workers to miss work every year, costing the economy $50 billion in work-related costs, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine.
There are steps you can take to prevent injuries, including buying more body-friendly office furniture and equipment, but the root cause of many musculoskeletal problems is poor posture caused by weak abdominal muscles, according to exercise instructor Rochelle Licata of Smart Bodies in Solon.
Licata is a trained instructor in a new low-impact exercise trend called Pilates, named after its founder, Joseph Pilates. Pilates exercises, most of which are done with no equipment, focus on proper breathing and building the muscles in the abdominal and lower torso area so people will naturally sit and walk with their backs straight and shoulders back. Think yoga with some kick.
"Pilates is very empowering," Licata says. "It's all about body awareness and catching yourself in a lot of bad habits."
Here are three Pilates exercises you and your employees can do to improve your posture while at work or at home.
Breathing is the core of Pilates. Simply concentrating on how you breathe and using the proper techniques will improve your overall posture, says Licata.
In Pilates, you inhale through your nose and exhale softly through your mouth. While you're breathing, it's important to keep the spine stacked. To do this, make an imaginary line from the top of your head to the ceiling and try to make your back follow that line.
"When you sit up straight and your internal organs aren't crushed, they have the room they're supposed to have," she says. "They start firing better, they start working the way they're supposed to. Combining that along with the breathing is really a boost to your immune system."
Stretch those neck muscles
Licata says the muscles in our neck are overdeveloped due to those muscles being forced to carry around our 12 to 15 pound heads all day. You can't remove your head, but you could take the pressure off your neck by strengthening the mid-back muscles.
Try this: As you inhale, roll your shoulder blades back and imagine trying to put them in opposite back pockets, hold, then exhale.
Work the abdominals
Forget about crunches. You're only working your abdominal muscles about 10 percent of the time.
Here's a better exercise: Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, with your head on a towel. Have the corners of the towel just about an inch above your head. Pick up the ends of the towel, inhale and lift your upper body while cradling your head and neck in the towel, hold, then exhale as you return to the starting position. It will be a small movement, but it targets the abs much better than a crunch or sit-up.
Don't lift your head off the towel or jerk your head forward during the movement. How to reach: Smart Bodies, (440) 914-0014
Morgan Lewis Jr. (email@example.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.
But even with all the attention on anthrax and small pox, the fact is the average American is more likely to be stricken with the common cold or seasonal flu than to even know someone who knows someone who may be affected by biological warfare.
Your chances of coming down with any of this season's garden variety illnesses are even greater if you work in an office with other employees, have children in day care or school or work with others who have children. In short, you're taking a risk just by leaving your house and going to the office.
For those determined to side-step our seasonal affliction, there are flu shots, homeopathic remedies, juice and vitamins. But, often the best prevention is a simple awareness of what causes and what prevents the common cold.
According to a study by Harvard researchers, 60 percent of parents erroneously believe some colds are caused by bacteria. Nearly half of those surveyed believe colds should be treated with antibiotics. But colds are viral, and antibiotics have no effect on them.
In addition, 90 percent of parents believe colds are more likely to be transmitted by sharing drinks or utensils, or even kissing. Only three-quarters of respondents correctly thought that shaking hands was a major factor. Most often, colds are transmitted through contact with the nose and eyes, making the hands the most likely vehicle for spreading illness.
No matter how simple basic illness-prevention measures like hand washing are, there seems to be an awareness gap. According to Stephen Musgrave of the Wellness Council of Northeast Ohio, a not-for-profit that promotes wellness at the workplace, even though a healthy lifestyle will protect the majority of office workers from the common cold, programs advocating weight loss, stress management and nutrition don't draw the crowds that other health programs do.
"If we have something about flu shots or water quality, we draw a huge crowd, but if we do something on lifestyle changes, we get seven to eight people," he says.
The domino effect that one co-worker's illness can have on an entire office is legendary. Some businesses devote a lot of resources to combat health-related losses in their offices.
According to Laura Adams, manager of wellness and fitness at Progressive Insurance, "People that are well perform better at work and at home."
One of the components of Progressive's health service program is wellness/fitness. Flu vaccinations are offered free to employees and their spouses and the company teaches a class on the proper way to wash your hands after dealing with children. In addition, quiet rooms are available for employees who are feeling ill.
With more than 55 percent of employees participating in the wellness programs, Adams and Progressive are tracking results in part by evaluating medical claims in correlation with the cost of the programs.
"People that take advantage of the program perform better, and that it is worth the money," Adams says.
In the end, the best method of prevention is simple -- wash your hands and eat your vegetables. However, those actions are just not seen the same way as antibiotics or fad cures.
"Everyone wants an easy solution," says Musgrave.
But easy is not always better. Musgrave warns against fly-by-night cures or preventions.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," he says.
As boring as it sounds, your mother was right. Eating right, getting a good night's sleep and exercising are your best weapons against illness. How to reach: Progressive Insurance (800) 776-4737; Wellness Council of Northeast Ohio, (440) 953-9292
Kim Palmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.