Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

Well-schooled

Robert Reany exchanges pleasant banter with his workers as he helps prepare for the Friday lunch crowd at Columbus' North Market. The 41-year-old entrepreneur moves confidently from behind the well-ordered displays of fresh fish and salads chilled on ice to sit at a wooden picnic table on the market's sun-drenched boardwalk. With obvious pride, he begins talking about a subject he knows well: how to sell some of the best fresh fish in town.

"I've been profitable since Day One," boasts Reany, who opened Bob "The Fish Guy" three years ago with $10,000 and more than 20 years of experience in New York's savvy, oceanfront industry. First-year sales of his premium-quality seafood and side dishes were $450,000, he says. With a steady-even stunning-profit margin of about 40 percent, he now reels in more than $700,000 annually and expects to open a second outlet soon.

Reany explains his success simply. "There was very little investment," he says of the tiny 13-square-foot space where he started his business with one clerk and a smattering of used and leased equipment. Proceeds from the sale of his partnership share in a New York fish-retailing business, as well as some extra equipment he opted to unload, financed his entire start-up phase.

"The rent, payments and payroll were low enough and I didn't carry that much inventory," he explains. "It's a fresh product and I bought and sold it right away."

But Reany is also a seasoned entrepreneur with vast knowledge in his chosen field.

While 16 and still in high school, Reany worked part-time at Blue Water Fish Market in the Bayside area of Queens, N.Y., just around the corner from where he lived. He increased his hours to full-time after graduation and remained there for six years before taking a job at Hollis Fisheries in Hollis Queens, N.Y. The owner of that fish market, Teodoro Guadalupi, became his most influential mentor.

Reany later partnered with Guadalupi and a personal friend, William Rousseas, in Marine Fisheries, a thriving, upscale seafood market in Great Neck, Long Island. His duties included buying, pricing and preparing the fish for display-experience that would come in handy when Reany eventually struck out on his own.

"Working with Teddy was tough because he was much older," Reany says. "He had a certain way of doing things and we let him do it pretty much because he had given us the opportunity and we were making good money and were happy."

Problems arose, however, when Guadalupi retired and left his share of the business to his son, a man with whom Reany did not get along. Reany left the partnership, briefly owned a "totally unprofitable" stationery store, then went to work, unsuccessfully, as a manager in the fish section of a supermarket.

"It was the worst year of my life," Reany recalls. "There was so much bureaucracy, and the product was so bad. It was a terrible experience."

Reany briefly rejoined Marine Fisheries after the younger Guadalupi died unexpectedly, and although the money was good there, Reany admits that the partnership aspect of it-answering to other people-was "getting old." Furthermore, the traffic and high cost of living in New York got him and his wife, Kimberly Hanson, talking more and more about moving away. When Hanson accepted a lucrative job offer as director of circulation at Victoria's Secret Catalogue in Columbus, Reany knew it was time to make a fresh start in a business of his own.


Tackling the Midwest

If you can make it in New York, as the song goes, you'll make it anywhere. But succeeding in the fish business in Columbus was far from a foregone conclusion for Reany. While New Yorkers were willing to pay dearly for high-quality seafood, Reany was unsure if Columbus natives would spend as much as $15 for the privilege. A casual observation of the lunch menu at Katzinger's Delicatessen in German Village put Reany's fears to rest.

"I was waiting in line to order lunch there one day, and saw that pastrami sandwiches were selling for $8," he recalls. "So I figured if people would pay $8 for a pastrami sandwich, they'd spend $15 on a piece of swordfish."

Reany spent several weeks visiting Ohio wholesalers to find the best sources for various fish. Using the Yellow Pages, he scoured every fish market and supermarket he could find to check out his potential competition and to determine what he could do differently. Not only did this research confirm Reany's belief that he could offer fresher fish than most, but it also convinced him he could display it better than anyone else. What he was not convinced of, however, was that he could find, consistently, the quality of fish in Ohio that he had found in the Big Apple.

When Reany initially set up shop at the North Market in November 1995, he began making a weekly pilgrimage to New York's Fulton Fish Market, the only place he was confident he could buy the quality and variety of seafood he needed. This fish would sell out within about three days; then he would "fill-in" with lake fish from local wholesalers.

"You couldn't get better lake fish in New York," he admits.

But the $200 expense for truck rental and gas for his treks to New York, plus the wear and tear on his body from nine hours of driving each way, began to take its toll. By February 1996-less than three months after opening his shop-Reany decided it was in his best interest to make peace with the Ohio-based suppliers and fight the daily war for quality.

Pumping up the volume

Reany contends that Ohio-based wholesalers now sell a wider variety of fresh fish than when he started his businesses, so he can use them almost exclusively. A total of five suppliers, including Cleveland-based Waterfront Seafoods and Euclid Fish, keep his shop well-stocked.

With his expanded location in the North Market, which is roughly three times the size of the original, he also sells more variety than he used to. For example, where Reany used to stock four sizes of shrimp at the smaller site, he now sells eight sizes at the larger one-and sells just as much of each, boosting his total sales considerably.

Food critics John Marshall and John Champlin of Columbus Monthly credit Reany with having the most extensive selection of fish and shellfish in Columbus.

According to Tom Jackson, president and CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association, selling a lot of seafood may be the key to Reany's unusual start-up success.

"For people to be profitable in seafood, they have to do a large volume," notes Jackson. "You have to have the right customer base and location for that to happen because the way to build a fish business is by keeping the fish fresh-so you're turning it over all the time."

Reany's insistence on quality may help his fish sell quickly, too.

"If something isn't perfect, he sends it right back," says Gary Noe, a regional manager at the Columbus operations for Seafood International, one of Reany's suppliers. "I have a lot of respect for him; he certainly knows his product."

Michael Bartosic, a sales and purchasing manager for Waterfront Seafoods, agrees that Reany is demanding.

"He knows what's good, what's borderline, and what's not going to cut it in a couple of days," Bartosic says.

That's why Reany insists on buying directly from suppliers. He doesn't want his fish sitting around in a warehouse awaiting distribution-a practice he says was common at the supermarket where he previously worked.

Reany doesn't consider supermarket fish sections to be direct competitors. Yet Noe, whose company also supplies Kroger, says the same quality seafood that Reany sells can be purchased in some Kroger stores with high-volume fish sales. In addition, Reany's prices are competitive and sometimes better than the supermarket chain.

"In the fish industry," Noe cautions, "cheaper prices equal a cheaper product."

For his part, Reany says he's unconcerned with pricing strategies, and marks up his fresh fish 35 percent to 40 percent. The clientele at the North Market, he admits, are largely middle- to upp er-class and able to afford such prices. He differentiates himself from the competition, he says, by adding a more personal touch.

"We try to be as informative as possible," he explains. "A lot of people are afraid of fish."


Challenges ahead and behind

Reany's fast success has left him itching for a new challenge. His current shop can almost run without his being there, so he's considering Grandview, Bexley and Worthington as possible sites for a second location. Reany plans to take some of his employees, which now number six full-time and two part-time, to the next location with him. Then Reany will build, through trial and error, the next group of contented workers. After all, rounding up the first bunch was trouble enough.

Reany remembers going through dozens of sales clerks and kitchen workers in Columbus' low-unemployment market before locating his current staff.

"People would come in like a house on fire and quit after three days," he says.

After hiring shop manager, Doug Denny, staffing seemed to get easier, Reany says.

"Doug was very smart and learned quickly," he explains. "He gave me more free time so I could be more patient with hiring people. Also, we could take turns training new people."

Denny says he likes Reany's no-nonsense, New York approach of taking care of problems as soon as they arise. Then there's Reany's informal management style, which employee Kevin Bertschi cites as a plus. Reany is so laid-back he even lets Bertschi and others pay themselves daily from the cash register and leave a note.

Keeping more than one worker at the stand at all times helps keep workers honest, says Reany, who has dismissed just one employee for stealing.

"They have autonomy," Reany says. "No one ever busts their chops. Some of them are just tired of wearing suits and ties to work."

Reany pays his staff between $6 and $12 an hour. Recently, he started to offer health benefits to his full-timers "to do something nice for them," and he pays the roughly $60-a-month fee to cover each employee. His philosophy is to treat employees the way he wants to be treated.

"A lot of times I'm not here all day long, and my business is in their hands, my money is in their hands," he explains. "So I don't want anyone to be upset with me."

That's an attitude he plans to keep as he expands his Bob "The Fish Guy" shop into as many as five more locations throughout the city.

"This is what I do best," Reany says.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:04

Where the money is

Securing private capital to start or grow a business is seldom easy. The key isn't just who you know-though that certainly helps-it's who they know and whether you're a good fit for that venture capitalist's portfolio.

Steve DiMauro, executive director of the Columbus Investment Interest Group, an affiliate of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, says venture-capital firms typically look to invest in companies with a substantial market opportunity and high-growth expectations. These companies should also have an experienced management team, a competitive advantage, great ideas and a clear strategy to implement them, he adds.

Below are some venture-capital firms that operate in Ohio's three largest cities: Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. If you think your firm might qualify for an investment from one of them, your best bet is to get an influential accountant or attorney who believes in your business to introduce you. Many venture-capital firms do not accept unsponsored business plans.


Columbus

CID Equity Partners
Contact: Bill Oesterle
224-8185
41 S. High St., Suite 3650, Columbus 43215
Industry: All, with a focus on software, industrial and consumer goods; medical and health-related businesses; telecommunications; and specialty financial products
Preferred investment: Mezzanine fund, $3 million to $5 million; equity fund, $1 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Primarily 5 percent to 45 percent


Desco Capital Partners
Contact: James Shade
885-8855
150 E. Campus View Blvd., Columbus 43235
Industry: Industrial products, software, medical equipment
Preferred investment: $500,000 to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: 5 percent to 45 percent, though sometimes a majority interest is sought


Enertek Partners
Contact: Paul Purcell
424-7005
505 King Ave., Columbus 43201
Industry: Natural gas
Preferred investment: $500,000
Desired ownership stake: Greater than 10 percent


The Ohio Partners
Contact: Maurice Cox
621-1210
62 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215
Industry: Information technology
Preferred investment: $1 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Minority interest and active participation with management team


Cleveland

Brantley Venture Partners
Contact: Kevin J. Cook
(216) 283-4800
20600 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 1150, Cleveland 44122
Industry: All except real estate, oil and gas, and motion pictures
Preferred investment: $3 million to $8 million
Desired ownership stake: Between 25 percent and 80 percent


Clarion Capital Corp.
Contact: Tom Niehaus
(216) 687-1096
1801 E. Ninth St., Suite 510, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Life sciences, information technology, telecommunications
Preferred investment: $250,000 to $500,000
Desired ownership stake: Less than 10 percent


Crystal Internet Venture Fund
Contact: Daniel Kellogg
(216) 263-5515
1120 Chester Ave., Suite 310, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Internet-related
Preferred investment: $1 million to $2 million
Desired ownership stake: About 10 percent


Key Equity Capital Corp.
Contact: Lisa Root
(216) 689-5776
127 Public Square, 28th floor, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Industrial machinery and equipment, industrial chemicals and materials, health care
Preferred investment: $1 million to $40 million
Desired ownership stake: 30 percent to 80 percent


MCM Capital Partners
Contact: James Poffenberger
(216) 621-6777
55 Public Square, Suite 2150, Cleveland 44133
Industry: Manufacturing
Preferred investment: $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Majority ownership but will also consider minimum of 33 percent


Morgenthaler Ventures
Contact: Lyn Cameron
(216) 621-3070
629 Euclid Ave., Suite 700, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care, information technology
Preferred investment: $3 million to $7 million
Desired ownership stake: From 10 percent to 70 percent


National City Capital
Contact: Christopher Dowd
(216) 575-2491
1965 E. Sixth St., Suite 1010, Cleveland 44114
Industry: All, with emphasis on manufacturing, consumer products, and communication equipment and services
Preferred investment: $1 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Variable minority interest


Ohio Innovation Fund
Contact: Tim Biro
(216) 622-8555
1400 McDonald Investment Center, 800 Superior Ave., Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care/life sciences, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and information technologies, polymers and specialty materials, software
Preferred investment: $250,000 to $1 million
Desired ownership stake: 25 percent


Paran Management
Contact: Joseph Shafran
(216) 921-5663
2720 Van Aken Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland 44120
Industry: Real estate, especially neighborhood and community shopping centers
Preferred investment: $1 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Equal partnerships; require property management role


Primus Venture Partners
Contact: Loyal Wilson
(440) 684-7300
5900 Landerbrook Drive, Suite 200, Cleveland 44124

Industry: Information technology, health care, financial services, retail, education, training

Preferred investment: $5 million to $10 million

Desired ownership stake: Lead investor role preferred; majority interest not required.


The Northcoast Fund LP
Contact: Jonathan G. Turk
(216) 566-8084
1111 Chester Ave., Suite 830, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care, technology, consumer products, communications
Preferred investment: $800,000
Desired ownership stake: Lead investor role preferred; majority interest not required.


Thomas Roulston III Investment Partners Inc.
Contact: Thomas Roulston
(216) 771-9199
1350 Euclid Ave., Suite 1060, Cleveland 44115
Industry: Manufacturing, distribution, consumer products
Preferred investment: $500,000 to $2 million
Desired ownership stake: 25 percent to 100 percent


Cincinnati

Blue Chip Venture Co.
Contact: Todd Gardner
(513) 723-2300
2000 PNC Center, 201 E. Fifth St., Cincinnati 45202
Industry: Information technology, health care, retail/consumer products, communications
Preferred investment: $3 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Up to 49 percent


River Cities Capital Fund
Contact: Murray Wilson
(513) 621-9700
221 E. Fourth St., Suite 2250, Cincinnati 45202
Industry: Information technology, telecommunications, manufacturing
Preferred investment: $2 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Up to 49 percent


Senmed Medical Ventures
Contact: Clint Dederick
(513) 563-3240
4445 Lake Forest Drive, Suite 600, Cincinnati 45242
Industry: Medical-related technology
Preferred investment: $750,000 to $1 million
Desired ownership stake: Typically 5 percent to 10 percent


Walnut Capital Partners
Contact: Daniel Fleming
(513) 651-3300
312 Walnut St., Suite 1151, Cincinnati 45202
Industry: Low-tech
Preferred investment: $2 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Varies

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Same cost, more loyal workers

Good help may be hard to find, but one Columbus businessman found it thousands of miles away.

Ratmir Timashev, president and CEO of Aelita Software Group, was looking to expand his business in 1997 after registering $260,000 in sales with a highly successful network management product. But to grow the Powell-based company quickly, he wanted to hire 30 developers within three to six months. Finding few in Columbus, Timashev started looking to his homeland of Russia.

“Nationwide there is a short supply of software developers, but Central Ohio is more affected because high-tech people tend to go to New York, the Silicon Valley or Seattle looking for a better job in a bigger company,” he says. “In Russia, you have unemployment and a huge pool of people who are talented, educated and qualified, and that was the major motivating factor to move development to Russia.”

For a year, Timashev considered the undertaking. As an experiment, he assigned a few “nonstrategic” projects to Russian developers. Encouraged by their progress, he moved all development work to Russia in September 1998.

At that time, there were 10 employees in Columbus and five in Russia. By late 1998, Timashev’s Russian staff had grown to 35 — and of Aelita’s five new software products released in December 1998, four were developed in Russia.

Today, the company employs 55 developers and five administrators in Russia, including two project managers who supervise software development plants in Moscow and St. Petersburg and communicate directly with Aelita’s clients in the United States. The company’s customers include U.S. and international banks, government agencies, educational institutions and major technology and telecommunications companies, including AT&T, Lucent Technologies and GTE.

In 1998, Aelita had $1.3 million in sales; Timashev projected $3.5 million in sales in 1999.

Timashev vigorously maintains that worker availability — not the cost savings — was key to moving his development operation overseas. While Russian developers at Aelita earn $15,000 annually compared to between $45,000 and $50,000 for the same job in Columbus, he says employees live comfortably on the salary there.

Furthermore, he says, other costs involved in using Russian developers — telephone calls, Internet access and foreign taxes — tend to offset any savings in salary.

“To pay a $15,000 salary will end up costing me $35,000 to $40,000 because of the taxes in Russia,” he explains.

Timashev says his company provides at least two bonuses a year to developers at product release times, worth between 50 percent and 100 percent of a worker’s monthly salary. Although he doesn’t provide his Russian staff with health and retirement benefits, he says these benefits are provided by the Russian government with a portion of the taxes he pays.

Because of the poor economic climate in Russia, employee turnover is minimal, he adds. Only a couple of workers have left his Russian work sites. Still, he says, management and communication are — and will remain — problems because they are done remotely.

To minimize problems, he communicates with his project managers through teleconferencing and e-mail. Hiring good managers, he adds, reduces supervisory and communication difficulties overall.

That will be increasingly important in the coming year as Timashev looks to expand his company. He wants to further Aelita’s sales and marketing presence in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston and is looking for venture capital to finance the growth.

Although the Russian connection has proven lucrative for Timashev thus far, he doesn’t recommend using the strategy without knowing Russian culture, especially its business culture.

“If you don’t know it yourself, hire someone who does,” he says.

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Young Entrepreneurs of the Year

Dan Friedman and Mark Alley began their pavement maintenance company in 1997 with a simple philosophy — go after the business you know you can get, limit expenses and make customers happy through quality workmanship and excellent service.

Directing their efforts at residential customers, the AmeriCoat founders devised a direct-mail campaign aimed at homes valued at $125,000-plus and focused on Upper Arlington, Bexley and Clintonville and nearby Delaware and Marysville. Five percent of all distributed fliers, which feature AmeriCoat’s uniformed employees and gleaming equipment, result in contracts.

“It’s not a blind campaign,” said Friedman. “We’ve built a database which holds almost every single driveway in Columbus. We know whether it’s asphalt or concrete and how big it is. We literally can market at will and get as much business as we want.”

Alley says the company compiles data by using staff and temporary employees to conduct neighborhood surveys during the off-season.

AmeriCoat has been profitable from the start, reporting a $16,000 net profit on revenues of $151,000 in 1998, the first full year of operation. The 1999 revenues for the 10-employee company, six full-time and four part-time staff, jumped to $250,000. AmeriCoat hires additional, temporary employees during the busy season, using seven crews to do the work.

When Friedman, 30, president, and Alley, 26, vice president, founded the company, they needed to control salary expenses. Friedman stayed on with employer Black & Decker for three years during AmeriCoat’s planning and launch stages, and Alley continued working at S.T.A.R. Seal of Ohio until 1998. Both had developed their careers with promotions through sales and marketing positions.

“They’re extremely creative and innovative in their approach to marketing,” says their National City banker, Anne Jennings. “When they applied for a loan, they gave one of the most professional presentations I’ve seen.”

Soon after getting the loan, Jennings said, the pair didn’t hesitate to ask her to help get National City as a client.

“They’re not timid,” she says. “They go after business aggressively.”

Jennings, vice president of National City’s business services group, says even when the AmeriCoat team loses a contract bid, they follow up with customers to find out why and make improvements.

Although AmeriCoat services other commercial accounts, including Lone Star Steakhouse, 75 percent of its business is residential. This year, Friedman and Alley expect the company to be the market share leader in the residential segment of the market.

But while business was excellent June through September, the owners had been looking for ways to keep staff employed and trucks running during the cold season. They considered snow removal but deemed it too difficult and unpredictable.

A flier dropped off to Alley’s family in Indianapolis, offering to string Christmas lights for a fee, provided the answer. Why not try it in Columbus, Alley and Friedman thought. The same equipment used for AmeriCoat could be put to another use. Dubbed “The Light Before Christmas,” the new venture debuted in 1999.

“The response has been tremendous,” says Friedman. “We did hundreds of jobs and booked up almost instantly. We had to turn away a great deal of business because we didn’t have the capacity to fill the orders.”

Most customers opt for the mid-sized order: 2,000 lights for $150, Friedman says. The company did few commercial orders, but Friedman says companies will be a major focus in 2000. The pair has a smaller operation of The Light Before Christmas in Tampa and hopes to franchise the company in the next few years.

This year, they’ll try a new form of direct mail for both operations that is expected to quadruple their business. While AmeriCoat already has a small operation in Grand Rapids, Mich., the partners want to expand the company in the next five years to cities close to home — Cincinnati, Cleveland and Indianapolis. They know business will grow steadily, one customer at a time.

“We may not turn a profit on an individual customer,” says Friedman. “But they’ll keep us for life because they’re tickled that we’re relentless in keeping them happy.”

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:39

Vickie Hutchins & JoAnn Martin

While many business partnerships fail when oversized egos get in the way, Gooseberry Patch owners Vickie Hutchins and JoAnn Martin say partnering is what makes their company work.

“I don’t know that either of us would have hung in here this long if we were by ourselves,” says Hutchins.

Sixteen years ago, the duo started the Delaware mail order business from a mutual love of country decorating and antiques. With an initial investment of $5,000 apiece, they took no income for three years. In 1990, they hit the $1 million sales mark, and the company grew at about 30 percent a year after that. They expected sales to reach nearly $15 million at the close of the fiscal year last month.

As in most successful partnerships, Hutchins and Martin have complementary skills. Hutchins handles the creative aspect of the business, particularly catalog design and cookbooks, while Martin manages more of the day-to-day operations. Yet each crosses over from time to time, and neither is territorial when it comes to getting things done.

“We can divvy up the crummy jobs and the fun ones,” says Martin.

And neither gloats over a good decision — nor plays the blame game over a bad one — like the time they tried to sell the bowl with the floating candles.

“We’ve still got quite a few of them,” says Martin with a chuckle.

“Maybe it was because the candles were shaped like rocks,” adds Hutchins. “We’ve been trying to donate the bowls to schools to use as terrariums, but you really can’t donate them because they’re so breakable.”

But the pair thinks they’re on target most of the time when it comes to picking just the right products for their customers — typically well-educated women between the ages of 35 and 55. And they contend they’re selling more than simply products in their whimsical catalog pages.

“I think the catalog is about comfort, family, friendship and sharing,” says Hutchins. “It brings to people’s lives a little something they’re missing.”

The duo also has a shared commitment to providing extra-friendly service to their customers. Gooseberry’s “personal shoppers,” telephone operators whose numbers swell to 25 in the months before Christmas, are given extensive training not only in taking orders in a chatty way, but also in becoming experts in Gooseberry’s cozy product line — from layered cookie mixes to bubble lights. Each year, the catalog features about 200 new products.

The pair, winner of Ernst & Young’s Columbus and Central Ohio Retail Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1995, says the newest challenge is finding enough creative people to add to their in-house staff of illustrators, copywriters and graphic designers. They say Gooseberry’s laid-back atmosphere, replete with scented candles and potpourri, may be difficult for those who prefer a corporate ladder.

“A lot of people can’t go with the flow and be flexible and spontaneous,” says Martin. “The lack of creative talent is determining our growth, which gets frustrating because we have so many ideas and so much we want to do.”

But Hutchins and Martin are confident that they’ll continue to build their business in the relaxed, non-competitive way they always have.

“I don’t think we’ve ever lost sight of what it is we’re here for and what it is we want to do,” says Hutchins. “I don’t think it’s ever changed; it’s evolved.”

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Guiding the green

Growing professionally is a continuous process at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP.

With corporate offices in Cleveland and more than 550 attorneys and 20 offices in cities around the world, including Columbus, SS&D offers several training programs to help guide the careers of its associates.

"Business development is not a skill that you learn in college or law school," says Alex Shumate, SS&D's managing partner in Columbus. "It's a mindset that you develop over the course of your experience. As Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP is committed to lifelong learning for all associates and partners, we take an active role to ensure that they receive the resources necessary to ensure personal and professional growth."

An example of that commitment is SS&D's monthly New Associate Training sessions. Topics such as "Accepting Assignments & Managing Your Workload" and "Public Service Work and Community Activities" help new attorneys learn over a span of nine months about the mechanics and culture of the legal profession.

Karen Winters, a partner in the Columbus office who teaches a session in associate evaluation, says SS&D's orientation program gives new hires a sense of the whole.

"It's largely informational," she explains. "We want new associates to know about all of the services the office has to offer to make their jobs easier. They also need to be familiar with substantive areas of the law which they may need to interact with to provide quality legal services to a client."

To help meet these goals, Winters says, new associates are trained in using the firm's technology to conduct advanced legal research and attend presentations given by SS&D attorneys who specialize in such areas as tax, public or environmental law.

Another example of the firm's commitment to training is "SS&D University," typically a two-day workshop at which a panel of SS&D partners provides new associates with an overview of the firm's markets and plans for the future, guides them in developing personal business development plans and gives them pointers on bolstering client relationships.

Three years ago, SS&D began a bimonthly training program aimed at helping its mid- to senior-level associates better market their services. Working with groups of 10 associates at a time, the Business Development Group includes senior partners in the firm who share their experiences in maintaining and enhancing client relationships and generating new business opportunities.

As part of the same initiative, SS&D brings in outside speakers, including public relations strategists who discuss ways to build relationships and enhance image and reputation, and past clients to share the factors they use in selecting outside counsel.

SS&D sees training as an investment in its future, Shumate says. "We realize that it is imperative to invest time further developing our young associates and their continued growth, for they are the future of our business," he says. "They appreciate the level to which we focus upon their continued success. Ultimately, as they grow, generate new business and establish sound client relationships, they bring success to the firm as a whole." How to reach: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP, www.ssd.com, 365-2700

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.

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