Joan Wall

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:48

Bob Vennemeyer

Bob Vennemeyer, president and CEO of DesignGroup Inc., learned an important philosophy from one of the firm's founders, Harold Rettstatt: "You can do good work and still be a good person."

Those who know Vennemeyer might say he's taken Rettstatt's words to heart.

"One of the things that's kind of interesting is, it's never about Bob. It's never him telling you about what he's doing. You have to ask him, 'Bob, how's it going? How's business? Tell me about your new projects.' Maybe that's being a good salesman, but you never feel like Bob is selling you," says J. Daniel Schmidt of JDS Cos., who is a co-owner of DesignGroup's new building at 515 E. Main St. "He's always about problem solving or making a situation better for you."

Larry Black says Vennemeyer is always willing to listen to his clients and is trustworthy.

"Bob doesn't play games. When he tells you something, you know that's really how he thinks and feels about it," says Black, director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, who chose DesignGroup as the architect for the Main Library expansion, which was finished in 1991, and the construction of several branches.

"One of the things he says often is that you may save a few dollars here, but you will have forgotten those dollars pretty quickly if it doesn't work out," Black says. "Those are words that have saved the library a lot of money."

The Main Library restoration was, in fact, one of Vennemeyer's most rewarding personally. From his office, he can see the top of the library building, which DesignGroup's work transformed by removing all additions to the original 36,000-square-foot building, constructed in 1907 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and adding 214,000 new square feet of space.

Other projects completed by the DesignGroup, a $9 million, 75-employee firm, include the Ohio Stadium renovation, Thomas Worthington High School, State Teachers Retirement System and Grant Medical Center.

While Vennemeyer says the company has had nearly steady growth, he acknowledges that last year, when it moved from Olentangy River Road to its Discovery District location, was one of the more difficult ones.

"Our radar was down a little bit," he says of the firm's delayed reaction to the economic slowdown. "The move was really a smokescreen."

He had to lay off seven employees -- a first for the firm.

"It was a tough experience," says Vennemeyer. "I don't want it to ever happen again."

He learned that any changes in the company's financial information must be made known to management immediately, and he hired a financial consultant, David Bittner, president of Growth Management Solutions Inc., to prioritize, clarify and simplify the company's reporting system.

Vennemeyer says he gets through such challenges in business and life with the help of his faith and participation in Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Vicki, are members of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Powell and have three grown children, Cara, Adam and Andrew.

He says in the mid-'70s, a friend's question, "Is Jesus Christ your personal savior?" opened his eyes to the potential of his faith.

The friend explained: "Why wouldn't Christ want to help you through life in this world? Why would he just wait until the next life?"

Vennemeyer gets tears in his eyes as he describes how he prays with Rettstatt at the start of every week for help with the business and how he calls upon the Lord when he's in a situation where he might not know all the right answers.

"You've got faith in knowing there is an answer --- I just don't know it yet," he says.

Vennemeyer says his faith gives him peace in stressful situations, and people who know him, such as Black, call him "grounded" with a philosophy largely rooted in his religion.

John Schwarck, executive director of Friendship Village of Dublin, sees Vennemeyer as "well-balanced" and "people-oriented."

He's witnessed those traits as Vennemeyer serves as chair-elect on Friendship Village of Dublin's board.

Especially evident, he says, is Vennemeyer's ability to look at different facets of a situation and explain them clearly -- a necessity on a board on which members with different backgrounds create diversity.

"Bob has a way of bringing that together. He can talk to you and explain things to you and give you the ability to understand things quite readily," Schwarck says.

Vennemeyer uses the same skills on the advocacy committee of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Council as well as the Governor's Small Business Advisory Council and TEC, a peer group of business executives.

"When you finish a conversation with Bob, no matter what it's about, you always feel like you're a little bit better for it," says Schmidt, who shares Vennemeyer's dedication to making the Downtown area strong. "I've learned a tremendous amount about architecture and construction from him. He's a teacher and a facilitator." How to reach: Bob Vennemeyer, DesignGroup Inc., 255-0515, ext. 219; rvennemeyer@dgcolumbus.com or www.dgcolumbus.com

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:48

No crushing blow

If Rosemarie Rossetti can't convince you to get or update your disability and health insurance policies, it's likely no one can.

She vividly remembers the sunny Memorial Day weekend in 1998 when she thought she'd finally made it.

That May weekend she spent in a luxurious training facility in a high-rise building in Chicago conducting a "Train the trainer" seminar for an Ottawa, Ontario, Canada-based company called Friesen, Kaye and Associates. She walked the streets of the Windy City to her elegant suite hotel, where her husband, Mark Leder, was joining her for a long weekend of shopping.

Seventeen months earlier, she'd left a faculty position at The Ohio State University to start Rossetti Enterprises Inc., a consulting and speaking business that was on its way to earning $72,000 a year. A publishing company on the side, Rosewell Publishing Inc., had generated $40,000 through sales of "The Healthy Indoor Plant," authored by Rossetti and her business partner and co-author Charles C. Powell.

"I just felt like I'd arrived," she says.

"I've got everything going for me," she remembers thinking. "I can't believe how far I've come."

Two weeks later she lay paralyzed in a hospital bed after being crushed by an 80-foot tree that fell on her as she rode her bicycle in Granville on a wedding anniversary trip with her husband.

All she had worked for disappeared. She and Powell had to dissolve the publishing business and sell the rights to the book. Her consulting business languished while she went through months of rehabilitation. In 1999, it posted a loss of $8,000. She began mourning a life she thought she'd never have again -- she couldn't even get in and out of bed, after all.

Time has helped, however, and she can now move around with the help of a wheelchair, or sometimes a walker. She's even found a specially-adapted bicycle on which she's traveled as much as 18 miles, and she's learning to ski on a specially-adapted chair.

Finally bringing life back to Rossetti Enterprises -- largely through inspirational speeches about her experience -- Rossetti wants other business owners to take heed of three lessons she learned during her ordeal:

* Obtain disability insurance.

* Maintain your health insurance.

* Make sure there's someone who can take over your company if something happens to you.

Emergency preparedness

Rossetti considers herself lucky that, as a result of 18 years of teaching at the high school and college levels, she had free disability insurance through the State Teachers Retirement System. The benefit stayed with her for two years after she left teaching, and because her accident happened within those two years, she was and will continue to be covered as long as she's considered disabled.

The insurance pays her a monthly stipend, which basically covers her living expenses. She receives a 3 percent cost-of-living increase each year.

Before her accident, she had been researching what she'd do about disability insurance once the two-year coverage period under her previous teaching contract expired. She found group policies, like those offered through chambers of commerce, to be less expensive than individual policies.

She also learned she'd have to make a budget of all her expenses in order to figure out how much coverage to buy. People may think their expenses would be lower if they were disabled, she says, since they would not be going out as much or doing as many things, but this, she's learned, is a fallacy.

"Something else is going to be causing your money to leave your pocket," she says, referring to medical care and adding that you still will want to maintain your quality of life with things you enjoyed before you were disabled. "Why deprive yourself of a new pair of pants or a night out at the movies?"

If she didn't already have the coverage, she would have taken the advice of insurance agents who, before her accident, told her to take out a disability insurance policy before she ever left her university job.

"Then you're no risk," she explains. "If you change jobs, you've got the policy."

Once she is able to bring in an income again, she intends to notify her disability insurance carrier to tell it she is no longer disabled.

"But right now I still am," she says. "I can't earn enough money to live. It really is my main source of income."

Choose healthy options

At the time of her accident, Rossetti had health insurance through her husband's employer. But she encourages business owners to take a close look at their insurance coverage to decide whether it's sufficient and whether it covers all the options they might need.

"The biggest thing we felt lacking is it didn't cover a personal care assistant at all," she says, "not even a day of it -- and I needed it for a whole year."

She was stuck with the $10-an-hour fee for her assistant, whom she needed sometimes 40 hours a week. She applied for financial assistance from the National Speakers Association and used money the local association chapter gave her after holding fund-raisers.

She also sought assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps business owners with vocational training, occupational tools and equipment, adaptive technology or job placement assistance and counseling so they can return to work after a disability.

Rossetti is still calculating the medical expenses, which so far have exceeded $160,000 for the helicopter ride to the hospital, hospital bills and surgeries. Prescriptions and some other items still are not included in the total.

She has filed suit against seven defendants, including the homeowners of the property where the tree fell; the foundation that built the bike trail; the Licking County Park System; tree pruning subcontractors; and Ohio Power, which maintained the area because power lines are nearby, but she knows the insurance companies will be paid first from any settlement.

She acknowledges that the high cost of health insurance deters business owners from increasing their coverage, so she suggests they consider having a higher deductible to make the premiums easier to swallow.

"You pay more when you first have the accident, but the insurance company covers the rest," she says. "Put in as many benefit pieces as you can."

Who's your backup?

Fortunately, Rossetti had kept her husband up-to-date on her speaking business. He brought her planner to the hospital, and she told him who to call and what to tell them. Powell, her partner in the publishing business, took care of that company until they decided he could not do it alone.

Shortly after she returned home from the hospital, she realized how lucky she had been to be able to make those decisions. Once home, she set out to balance her checkbook and just sat and stared at it, not knowing what to do. The narcotic pain killers had affected her ability to think.

"Not all injuries leave your head intact, and not all medicines leave you clear as a thinking person," she says.

To be even more fail-safe, Rossetti now uses ACT, a contact management database, and routinely updates her notes there. Her husband also knows how to use it in the event that she could not.

"It's not a bunch of little pieces of paper scattered throughout a folder now," she says of information about her business.

Regardless, she says, someone in your company -- be it a business partner, assistant or another executive -- should know as much about it as you do.

As a member of the National Speakers Association, Rossetti was able to call on colleagues to cover speaking engagements she had already scheduled. Some clients agreed to the substitute speaker. A few even told her they'd just wait until she could do it herself. It ended up being late in the year before she could resume even the most minimal schedule.

"In your world of expertise," she says, "see your competition as friendly competition, because some day you might need them." How to reach: Rosemarie Rossetti, Rossetti Enterprises Inc., 471-6100 or www.rosemariespeaks.com; Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, 438-1250 or www.state.oh.us/rsc/VR_Services/BVR/bvr.html

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:47

Don't start from scratch

We've all heard this golden rule of business: The customer always comes first.

But with the economy gone awry and businesses right and left being forced to lay off employees, we could be chasing our tails. Sales are down, people get laid off and lose money, consumer spending decreases, sales go down ....

Maybe it's time to get back to the basics. Now that you'll see my column on these pages each month, you'll quickly learn one of my firm beliefs: There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Ask around when you need management ideas. We did. Business leaders in Central Ohio have found plenty of ways to handle client relations, and we've compiled them throughout this edition. Learn from their mistakes and successes.

Dave Bianconi of Progressive Medical Inc. shares his reasoning behind putting all his risk in one client -- and how he reacted when he learned he'd lose a large portion of that client's business. He was facing the possibility of annual sales decreasing by 45 percent. Instead, he found a way to recover and continue to grow his company -- 58 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in the two years following the startling announcement from that major client.

Kelly Borth of GREENCREST shares the secret of how she uses a formula for balance that protects her from a predicament such as Bianconi's. Tom McAuliffe at Commerce National Bank and Kevin Johnson, who owns two Music Go Round franchises, have found ways to build a more loyal customer base and increase sales.

And the stories of two local companies, Norman, Jones, Enlow & Co. and National Century Financial Enterprises Inc., might surprise you. Andy Coen of Norman, Jones Enlow and Dean Haberkamp of NCFE say you might want to consider turning away potential clients or weeding out your current customer list.

I hope these business owners' experiences keep you from starting at the drawing board and let you find better uses for your time.

Meanwhile, since you are our customers, let me know about any other areas in which you'd like us to provide smart ideas to help you grow your companies. Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:47

Teetering on the edge

Just 24 hours.

Dave Bianconi wouldn't allow himself any additional time to grieve.

He was devastated by the news: Liberty Mutual, his biggest client, was taking much of its business elsewhere -- and it didn't make sense to Bianconi, president of Westerville-based Progressive Medical Inc.

For almost 10 years he'd provided service to this client -- service that was, by all accounts, high quality. He'd received positive feedback from the Liberty Mutual field offices that his company was well-liked and respected, and that customers were very satisfied with his service.

Liberty Mutual was providing most of the eggs in Bianconi's basket -- a deliberate business plan he was following to use one big client to bring success for his company, which coordinates medical services and supplies provided to injured workers through the managed care system.

Now he was faced with the possibility of losing all of the pharmacy business he was providing to Liberty -- 45 percent of Progressive's annual sales. Liberty was responsible for 85 percent of the referrals to the company's pharmacy division.

"I felt very bad for our staff because they were very dedicated to the service to this company and kind of viewed it as a slap in the face," Bianconi says. "It took a little time to recover emotionally."

After that first 24 hours, however, he was over the emotional hump and ready to take action. Rather than pull in the reins and wait for the worst, Bianconi took a risk and hired more staff to jumpstart sales to other clients.

With a little luck and some fast work, Progressive Medical didn't miss a beat. Bianconi didn't have to lay off a single worker, and the company's overall revenue has continued to increase, from $17 million at the time of Liberty Mutual's news in 1999 to about $38 million expected this year.

"Don't give yourself very much time to cry over disappointments," Bianconi says, "because you just don't have time to do that. You just have to have that ultra-positive outlook."

Breaking the news

Bianconi's first course of action was to let employees in on the bad news. He met with managers and then with the entire pharmacy department.

"When your company goes through a tragedy or adverse situation, the staff needs to hear it from the owner and not from a second person," he says.

Still, he knew this news could send shockwaves through the company.

"We went from a future that looked very safe and secure to one that was unknown overnight," Bianconi says.

Instead of panicking, his staff turned around to support the company.

Sales staff and managers met with Bianconi to try to figure out what went wrong. Based on the positive feedback they'd been receiving from Liberty Mutual, they couldn't find a single thing to change.

Bianconi says there's really nothing the company could have done differently. Liberty Mutual executives told him they simply thought Progressive was too small a company to handle their needs.

"I don't feel it was anything that Progressive did" that caused the loss, Bianconi says. "You could provide the best service in the world, and that does not guarantee you're going to maintain that business relationship.

"One of the lessons we learned was, when you're dealing with a large company, there are many factors that go into the equation of doing business with someone, and sometimes you really don't know the real reason people do what they do," he says.

Devising a plan

With no apparent need to change the way Progressive serviced customers, Bianconi and his staff decided to focus instead on finding new business.

"I've always found that no situation is ever as bad as it seems and that there are solutions for every problem. Once you have outlined the solution and start to work on that solution, all of your fears go away," Bianconi says. "I've found that to be true in any aspect of business."

So he set out to create an opportunity out of a bad situation.

"The positive face I painted on it was that Liberty Mutual was forcing us to do something we should have done a long time ago, and that is diversify our customer base more than we had," he says. "So much of our resources and time were spent with Liberty Mutual. We refocused."

Fortunately for Bianconi and Progressive Medical, the timing of this particular bad news was good.

"Two years earlier, we would not have been as prepared," Bianconi says.

The company had just staffed its sales positions across the United States; up to that point, Bianconi had relied on Liberty Mutual's sales staff to refer business to the company.

"We were getting ready to market to other companies because we knew the position we were in was not a really desirable one," he says of his original business plan.

Calling for quick action

One thing reassured Bianconi: He was confident he wouldn't lose the business overnight.

"I knew something this large and big was going to take time to make this transition work," he says.

He also benefited from a stroke of luck. Liberty Mutual decided that, rather than doing away with all of its pharmaceutical business at Progressive, it would simply stop referring new business. Bianconi would keep Liberty's existing business, but over four phases, he'd stop getting its referrals.

The best news: Those phases didn't start until May 2001.

Bianconi lit a fire under the members of his newly expanded sales force. He wanted them to take full advantage of the time they'd have before the actual loss took place.

He knew he was going against the grain of what other businesses might do in his situation. Most would scale back and wait to see what happened with Liberty Mutual.

"I said, 'We cannot let them dictate what our future is. We need to move forward now while we can,'" he says, admitting he knew he was taking a risk by hiring staff.

At the time of the bad news, Bianconi had 70 employees; now there are 103.

"Being in business is a risk, and you must be prepared to make risky decisions. But I look at them as smart decisions," he says. "Certainly there's a risk, but that doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do."

Progressive's sales staff did, indeed, bring in new business. Now Liberty Mutual accounts for just 30 percent of the company's referrals, and Bianconi says his goal is to bring in enough additional clients to reduce that figure to 10 percent.

Keeping good face with Liberty Mutual while growing Progressive Medical at such a fast rate has been key to handling the situation, says Rich Jacobs, with whom Bianconi regularly confers on business matters through TEC, an international organization for CEOs.

Jacobs, chair of a Central Ohio TEC group, says Bianconi's predicament is similar to that of other TEC participants.

"Most of my members, they started out with one really strong company, and then they've all pretty much realized they need to have a strategic plan so they're not so dependent on that company," says Jacobs, a teacher in Franklin University's MBA program who is a former consultant and manager for Columbia Energy Systems and former president of companies then known as Brockway Plastics Inc. and National Gas and Oil Corp. of Newark.

Business owners relying on one major client, Jacobs advises, need to keep two things in mind. First, they need to test the relationship with that client every day.

"So much of that is relationship selling," he says. "If you know the person you're dealing with is going to be leaving in two years, you need to do something. You can't wait that two years and see what happens."

Second, he says, business owners should always have a contingency plan.

"They always have to have a scenario that says, 'What happens if I lose this client? Would I go out of business?'" Jacobs says. "So, I think they always have to have a scenario -- best case, today's case and worst case."

The egg basket theory

"One part of the equation I think a lot of people miss regarding putting all your eggs in one basket is to not get complacent and sit back and say, 'Well I have this business so I don't have to look for new business,'" Bianconi says. "We never really did that; it's just that we accelerated our efforts in the possibility of losing that business.

"Liberty Mutual is still our largest customer and they probably will be our largest customer for a long time -- I certainly hope so. Somebody has to be your largest customer. They just will not be as large a percentage of our overall business as they previously had been."

Bianconi, meanwhile, still credits Liberty Mutual with a large part of his company's success, especially in its early years. The business climate as well as managed care and health care needs keep changing, requiring a response from Progressive Medical to keep up.

"That's what makes business fun, is it's not the same year after year after year," he says. "It does change, and you have to be smart enough to pick up those changes and understand what the customer wants." How to reach: Dave Bianconi, Progressive Medical Inc., 794-3300, ext. 2604 or bianconi-dave@pmimail.com; Rich Jacobs, TEC, (740) 587-0714

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:47

Back to class

When John P. McConnell started discussing the internship aspect of Career Academies for Columbus-area students, he made one thing clear: The students must be paid.

One reason for his demand, he says, is he wanted business owners to be able to fire the students if their work was unacceptable -- and let them see they'll continue to be paid if they perform well.

The important real-life work place lessons are one way organizers hope to fuel student and business interest in the academies, which are formed through a partnership among Columbus Public Schools, Columbus State Community College and Central Ohio businesses.

"Keep asking yourself, are you happy with secondary education? This is a concrete way to do something about it," says McConnell, chairman and CEO of Worthington Industries Inc. and chair of the Workforce Development Council of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Career Academies.

The academies are small learning communities within high schools.

Students in grades 10 through 12 take college prep level classes but also have exposure to the work world through classroom speakers as well as internships, job shadowing and mentoring from local businesses. Students must maintain a B average on their own or with the help of tutoring and, upon successful completion of the academies, could receive an honors diploma, industry certification and up to one year's worth of college credits.

Teachers and students volunteer for the program, which adds a curriculum based on business-driven skill sets.

"We will have an agreed-upon set of skill standards that businesses have signed off on," says Tim Hickey, president and CEO of Techneglas Inc. and vice chair of the Workforce Development Council.

He anticipates that graduates of the career academies will give him a better pool of talent to access for entry level positions.

"In response to our needs, we have had to do a lot of training and development right in house. I'm hoping with the Career Academies we won't have to do the same degree of remediation, and the people will have the skills they understand will be necessary in the future," Hickey says.

One key to the program's success, says Rod Bowman, senior vice president of workforce development at the chamber, is that students participate in study areas of interest to them. The academies, launched in two Columbus Public schools last year, had 500 students enrolled. More Central Ohio schools and industries will be added over the next two years, with 11 academies hosting 2,400 students expected by the 2002-2003 school year.

Academies include architecture, construction and engineering; business; health sciences; information technology; information technology/logistics; and technology, engineering and manufacturing.

Business participation is another key factor.

Worthington Industries, for example, will provide internships for six students this summer at $8 an hour, McConnell says. Both Worthington and Techneglas have hosted teacher externships, another part of the academies, during which teachers visit companies for three days to learn more about the skills required of workers.

"I think they were shocked at what goes on in a manufacturing environment, what skills are necessary, and I think they realized perhaps what they were teaching is not what is needed in the future," Hickey says.

Local workforce development efforts were prompted, McConnell says, by a shrinking population and workers who do not have good skills.

Consider the following facts that Bowman points out:

* Columbus Public Schools, the area's largest workforce supplier, has about 4,900 students in each grade level, but only about 2,800 graduate each year.

"That means there are 2,000 students out there on the streets or employed by you who don't have the skills to do the jobs that you have," Bowman told employers attending information sessions on the academies.

* The Ohio Business Roundtable, Bowman says, conducted a study that showed only one in 14 Ohio high school graduates has the skills necessary for entry level work.

* 71 percent of Columbus State freshmen need remedial classes.

* 106,000 Central Ohio adults can't read well enough to do an adequate job in the workplace.

Businesses participating in the academies pledge that they'll consider academy graduates for openings they may have. McConnell expects the academies to be a good resource for the 15 to 20 entry level positions he fills every year.

"You have the opportunity, like in any internship program, to get a good look at a number of students," McConnell says. "It's a wonderful way to develop your workforce as opposed to cold hiring." How to reach: John P. McConnell, Worthington Industries, 438-3210; Tim Hickey, Techneglas Inc., 443-6551; Rod Bowman, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, 225-6901; the Chamber's Workforce Development Department, 225-6900, educational_programs@columbus.org or www.columbus-chamber.org/workforce

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:47

Be the teacher

Books never sit long on Tom McAuliffe's shelves.

"I love reading a good book and then giving it away," says the chairman and CEO of Commerce National Bank and CNBC Bancorp.

He's always reading three to four books at one time, and he's given away hundreds. Sometimes he even buys extra copies of a book he particularly favors just so he can pass them out.

For example, a box of the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine sits in his office so he can hand one to any visitor who brings up the topic of change, that issue's focus.

"It's important to realize change is inevitable," McAuliffe says.

That's just one message he wants to spread. He invests time and money -- about $200,000 a year -- toward educating his customers, who are, themselves, business owners.

He hired Lou Pritchett, author of "Stop Paddling and Start Rocking the Boat," as the keynote speaker for a "Partnering for Change" seminar he held for clients last fall. Other topics have included "How to Stop Fraud in Your Business" and "How to Build Your Own Board of Directors." McAuliffe also holds a yearly economic forecast seminar.

"Clients love this stuff," McAuliffe says. "They love to come to learn and grow."

"There's a need for continuing education and continuing your networking contacts," says Darla King, president of King Business Interiors Inc. and a client of Commerce National Bank. "It's a great way to do it."

In addition to the seminars, McAuliffe uses other education tactics:

* Every other month, he produces a newsletter for clients. It includes an economic piece by Jim Newton, an economic consultant and the Columbus Center director for the Keller Graduate School of Management, as well as a list of key contacts at the bank on issues of interest to customers. One of those is fraud protection. Hardly a month goes by, McAuliffe says, when a client doesn't report a problem such as a bookkeeper stealing money.

* He subscribes to "Business Digest," a weekly fax sent to clients addressing issues such as economic and business news on subjects such as health care, e-commerce and personnel.

"We think education is an important part of our job," McAuliffe says. "We're more than just a place where you get money. You get information, education, resources."

He sees his education of customers as a marketing tactic that differentiates Commerce National Bank from its competition.

"One of the things I do at the end of most of these seminars," McAuliffe says, "is ask people to help us grow the bank and think about what clients they can send to us." How to reach: Tom McAuliffe, Commerce National Bank, 848-8700 or Tom.McAuliffe@cnbcbank.com

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.

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