"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.
The following organizations are accepting donations for the victims of Sept. 11.
Uniformed Firefighters' Association
UFA Widows' and Children's Fund
204 East 23rd St.
New York, NY 10010
Tax ID #13-3047544
American Families Assistance Fund
National Organization for Victim Assistance
1757 Park Road N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20010
United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York
World Trade Center Relief Fund
P.O. Box 5314
New York, NY 10150
Twin Towers Fund
c/o NYC PPL
The City of New York
P.O. Box 371
100 Church St., 20th Floor
NY, NY 10007
American Red Cross
American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013
U.S. Emergency Fund, Dept. NR
P.O. Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208
(800) 852-2100 or www.mercycorps.org
120 W. 14th St.
New York, NY 10011
Attention: Disaster Relief
The United Way of New York City
September 11th Fund
2 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10016
Catholic Charities USA
1731 King St., #200
Alexandria, VA 22314
Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund
New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund
Save the Children
The New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund
P.O. Box 5028
Albany, N.Y. 12205
A small number of managers dealt with a larger number of workers who worked on the shop floor or assembly line. But as the economy has moved more people behind desks, the line between who is eligible for overtime pay and who isn't has blurred.
"The Fair Labor Standards Act is very simple in its rules, but deceptively complex in its application," says Jonathan Segal, a partner in the Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen employment services group. "What the law generally says is that you are eligible for overtime unless you are exempt. You are exempt only if your are paid on a salaried basis and perform exempt responsibilities."
Exempt duties include executive responsibilities, professional responsibilities such as those of a physician and administrative responsibilities.
"The principles of the law make sense, but the framework doesn't fit the information economy," says Segal.
This means there are a lot of gray areas surrounding who's exempt and who isn't.
* To prove executive duties, an employer must show the employee supervises two full-time employees and that supervision constitutes at least 50 percent of his or her time. "If supervising is only 10 percent of what they do, that won't make it," says Segal.
* For a professional exemption, you just need to show some sort of degree upon which the job rests. This could be a doctor, nurse or psychologist, for example. This exemption is relatively narrow.
* Administrative exemptions are where most employers get into trouble. "It's fraught with ambiguity," says Segal. "To meet the exemption, the person must generally have substantial judgment and independent discretion and the ability to bind the organization. They should have the ability to develop and implement standards."
A computer programmer with extensive skills who works within an existing program may qualify for overtime pay. A programmer who has a more limited skill set but creates programs for the company to use may be exempt.
An executive secretary could be exempt if he or she has a lot of authority.
"If you want a position to be exempt, then you better give it real judgment and discretion," says Segal. "You need to show examples within the organization how they established and enforced protocol."
A title is relevant but isn't the determining factor. A custodial worker may be called a plant sanitation manager, but it doesn't change the job that's done.
Employers must also never give the impression that an exempt employee is anything but salaried, which carries special rules. Salaried workers cannot be docked pay for anything less than a full work week. If it's for sick or personal time, the minimum deduction is a day.
If you give exempt employees money for working extra hours, don't pay based on an hourly basis.
"Give them a flat amount so it looks like extra compensation," says Segal.
These labels -- as well as the warnings in any manual -- are there for several reasons. Some are required by law, some are there for market access reasons and still others are there because of the requirements of the customer. Labels may warn of operating hazards, recommend safety equipment, offer maintenance tips or give an overview of how the product should be properly installed.
"Once you've established the basics, you need go into it deeper: Where will it be used? Where will it be sold? What location is it intended for?" says Darrell Lehman, director of Global Business Development for Intertek Testing Services, an independent certification firm that helps companies figure out what labels are required for their products.
If you're planning on selling to a large chain store, bilingual labels might be in order.
"There may be some cases where bilingual is required by law, such as in Canada," says Lehman. "It may not be a requirement elsewhere, but it may be implicit for market access."
The regulations can be overwhelming. Different laws govern size, placement and appearance of warnings. Additional instructions may be required in the owner's manual. There are even specific requirement for the type of adhesive used on the label itself. Foreign markets have their own set of standards.
Lehman sees products arrive in various stages of compliance.
"Some companies are more sophisticated and come in with a product that's in full compliance and they just need a final confirmation required by law," says Lehman. "Others come to us with a raw product. The sooner we get involved, the better. We encourage our clients to get us involved in the product cycle itself. By the time they're done developing the product, it's already fully compliant."
The further along the product is, the more it will have to be reworked if something isn't in compliance, leading to higher costs.
"The biggest mistake we see is companies that just don't understand what's involved," says Lehman. "They don't even get copies of the standards."
If you want to survive, it's important to have a list of key measures to navigate your business through these tough times.
Each day, I talk to business owners who have high debt levels and are easily discouraged. The Federal Reserve Bank keeps dropping interest rates, but consumer confidence continues to decline, unemployment is rising, and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It's hard to give people advice when they ask what they should do because there are so many unknowns.
This changing business climate will invariably result in changes in many companies. Change brings uncertainty to your work force, which leads to a drop in productivity as people wonder about job security and the viability of their employer.
Internal and external communication are key. Internally, it's important so everyone is on the same page. If people are not aware of what's going on within the company, they will be forced to reach their own conclusions.
This is bad for morale, because conclusions may be based on incorrect information. Everything needs to be put in perspective. If you are in management, it is your responsibility to keep employees informed.
Externally, it's important to communicate so customers and vendors can work with you. Make sure your relationships are strong and that they are aware of what's going on with your company.
When you're not sure what to do, honesty is the best policy. You'll be surprised how willing people are to help if they're asked -- look at how much money was donated to charity after the Sept. 11 disaster.
Here are five more measures to help navigate your business through a rocky economy:
1. Manage your fixed costs. Continue to find ways to bring these down. It's important to closely manage your budgets in a time like this. When you can replace fixed costs with variable costs, you should do so.
2. Provide more value. When it comes to someone deciding between you and your competitor, this is how you differentiate yourself. Find ways to give the customer a little more than your competition does.
3. Measure investments, and measure every cost. It's important for your investment to yield a return. Set a realistic timeline of when you expect a return, and if it doesn't happen, cut your cost. Look at each piece of your business and see which are paying for themselves and which are not.
4. Refine your niche. Position yourself in the marketplace as a dominant player and distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack to make it clear why people should do business with you. Concentrate on your core products or services and do what you do best.
5. Adapt quickly. Make decisions in a timely manner. During times like these, leadership is needed. Adapt quickly to the circumstances around you or your competitors will. But don't make blind decisions; it's important to consult with your management team, then act based on the feedback you've gathered.
Now is not the time to get discouraged. It's time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The boom times are over for now, and it's much more difficult to run a business than it was just a few months ago.
Not every business will survive, but those that carefully navigate the perils ahead will come out stronger and ultimately more profitable.
Fred Koury (email@example.com) is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.
Companies experienced unprecedented growth during that time. Smaller companies became larger companies and large companies got even bigger.
But was all of this growth good growth? Did the top line growth equate to growth in the bottom line? Did organizations grow with sales or did they remain static or perhaps become dysfunctional? How many companies, after all of this growth, looked like stars on the outside but remained rookies on the inside?
For years, I have seen companies plan or simply experience sales growth while ignoring ways to continue to support those sales. Strategies focused solely on top line growth often create support gaps. These occur when a company's sales grow beyond the capacity or ability of the organization to support them.
Once support gaps are created in an organization, growth crisis is usually not far behind. The larger the support gaps, the greater the crisis. The greater the crisis, the less the company is able to continue to operate effectively and profitably, continue to satisfy its customers and continue to grow successfully.
When dealing with growing businesses., one basic truth is that support gaps and the growth crises they create cannot exist in an organization for very long. One of two things must happen -- either the company increases support levels to match the requirements of its sales, or its sales will decrease to the level that can be supported.
When support gaps occur, a company can no longer provide customers with what they have come to expect. Dissatisfied customers go elsewhere, and sales decrease.
Infrastructure = support
Support comes from the infrastructure of a company. It's the right combination of management, employees, structure, systems, processes, organizational culture and ownership.
Gaps are created when the sales growth of an organization outgrows the ability or capacity of these components. They are created when twice the number of orders are processed with the same number of people on the same overstressed system.
Gaps are also created when managers who did a good job when sales were at a much lower level are now struggling to manage today's larger operation. They are created when entrepreneurial owners are still trying to directly manage every aspect of their business, like they did when the company was a fraction of the size it is today.
Gaps can be eliminated, or better yet, avoided, by planning support growth along with sales growth, then investing in people and processes. Sales plans and business growth strategies are not complete unless they include plans for building infrastructure support.
Now is the time
This may seem like a strange time to be writing about the effects of rapid growth and growth crisis, when nearly every business seems to be struggling with the effects of the economy and experiencing declining or stagnant sales.
But now, when things are slower, is when problems created by the company's growth become more evident. Now is a perfect time to get back to basics.
Now is the time to objectively assess your company's performance over the last few years and to identify the support gaps and search for symptoms of support gaps throughout your organization.
Were profits where they should have been? How well is the management team performing? Have your systems been outgrown? Ask the questions and then develop and implement infrastructure improvements designed to close those gaps.
The economy will improve. Finding and closing support gaps now, or at the least developing the plan for closing them, will ensure your company is ready for the next round of growth.
Joel Strom (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of Joel Strom Associates LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.
If those relationships end badly, feelings get hurt and the subordinate starts looking for retribution by way of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Or the supervisor begins to find a way to get that employee out of the company, setting your firm up for an unlawful termination lawsuit.
"In these cases, people tend to revise history," says Mark Valponi, a partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cleveland. "They start to say, 'I was only involved with him or her because I thought I would get fired if I didn't.' But if somebody with authority to confer or withhold a job benefit would do something like that, the company is liable."
In legal terms, that type of sexual harassment is called quid pro quo. The other kind, hostile environment, involves inappropriate sexually oriented comments and/or actions against a co-worker.
Attorneys usually advise against fighting a suit in which a subordinate sues a supervisor in a quid pro quo case. Juries rarely find for the supervisor, and the damage to a company's reputation can't be measured in dollar terms.
"More companies are flat out prohibiting these type of relationships in their sexual harassment policies," Valponi says. "The risks are just too high."
Aside from forbidding supervisor/subordinate relationships, Valponi outlined other guidelines to safeguard your company against sexual harassment lawsuits.
Put it in writing
If you haven't done so already, adopt a zero tolerance policy that forbids sexual harassment in the workplace and clearly defines what kind of behavior is sexual harassment.
Avoid the legalese. Make sure the policy contains a complaint procedure for employees if they think they or one of their coworkers are the victim of sexual harassment. Often the victim doesn't feel comfortable filing a complaint; when one is filed, there should be more than one person that can field it.
"If your policy says, 'Take all complaints to your supervisor,' but your supervisor is the one that's harassing you, then what's the point in taking it there?" Valponi says.
If you run a larger company, pick two or three people who can field complaints. For example, the person in charge of HR or another supervisor outside the department could field complaints, in addition to the employee's main supervisor.
Make sure your other policies match the sexual harassment policy. In this computer age, e-mail and the Internet are often used for sexual harassment.
Make it clear that company computers belong to the company and that they're to be used for company business only. Because it's company property, it's subject to monitoring or searching without employee notice. The same goes for telephones and voice mail.
If you're implementing a policy midstream, have employees sign an acknowledgement that they read it and indicate the date they read it. Follow up by training supervisors and employees on the issues: How to file a complaint, what to do when a complaint is filed and how to respond.
"If you do a cost-benefit analysis, what is the benefit of letting employees post nude calendars or other materials in the workplace?" Valponi says. "The cost of doing that is finding yourself embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit. It's not worth it."
How to reach: Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, (216) 241-2838