Sitting in his vast office his blue eyes lit up with a slight bit of mischief Albert Gilbert, Ph.D., is about to tell a story he doesnt want his listener to misunderstand.
The president and CEO of Summa Health System hasnt been able to contain his enthusiasm about the fact that his hospital was recently named one of the nations top hospitals in four categories in U.S. News & World Reports annual Americas Best Hospitals issue. But hes careful about how much credit hes willing to take.
One doctor minimized it, saying, Thats just a popularity contest. They cant measure quality, Gilbert says. And I said, The hell they cant! They just did! Then Gilbert leans in. And then I said to that person, Its also because of great CEOship.
While Gilbert is compelled to say not once but twice that he was only kidding when he took a bit of the credit, theres no need. From the moment you meet him, its clear that he is not driven by ego.
As he discusses what hes learned on his 25-year journey through the Akron health care system that began in 1974 as CEO of Akron City Hospital and will end with his retirement some time between now and his 65th birthday in April 2002, he continually downplays his success and his position, forcing you to forget how successful he really is.
If you have a huge ego on a job like this, and you let it get in the way of what youre trying to accomplish, you cant be very successful, he says. So Ive always taken a position that if I werent doing this job, someone else would be. Im not whats important. Its what happens as a result of my being here thats important.
And much has happened since Gilbert began.
When he started as CEO of Akron City Hospital, Gilbert had no idea how much change hed see. Only 36 years old at the time, Gilbert had already served as executive vice president of Baltimores Mercy Hospital and earned his Ph.D. in business administration from Georgia State University.
But when asked what his mission was when he started his job, his characteristic modesty comes through.
To tell you the truth, I didnt have a clue, he says with a laugh. At that time, hospital administration was much different. That was before the CAT scan, before the MRI, length of stay in the hospital was around 10 days. Things were much different.
But they were about to change.
In 1983, the federal government introduced a new way to reimburse hospitals. Until then, the federal government and insurance companies reimbursed hospitals for the actual cost of procedures. But under the new diagnostic-related group system known as the DRG system illnesses were categorized and given a cost.
If a hospitals expenses were more than the set cost for the procedure, it had to make up the difference. The result?
Hospital administration and doctors had to come together to figure out how to reduce the costs of caring for patients, because previously, if the patient stayed in the hospital for 10 or 12 days, the government paid for it, Gilbert says. Now, if the patient stayed for 10 or 12 days, youre going to pay for it. As a result, beds emptied out, and the competition came.
Enter marketing plans. And slick ads on TV. And heart centers with catchy names that stick in a patients mind.
We had to begin thinking about marketing our services, Gilbert says. We had to begin thinking about what truly is it that the patient wants and needs? We just couldnt wait for the patients to arrive at our doors.
But the advent of the DRG system changed Gilberts job as well.
Before all of these events, it really was a pretty easy job, he says. You never had to worry about making the bottom line. You didnt have to worry about competition, because competition wasnt a part of it. It was more like running a social-service agency than a business.
While Gilbert acknowledges that thinking of new ways to lure people in his doors provided a stimulant to his work day, an even bigger challenge was on the way. With beds empty night after night, hospitals had to consolidate to survive.
At that point, Gilberts Akron City Hospital and CEO Michael Wests Akron General Medical Center began wooing the then-troubled St. Thomas Hospital to merge. Gilbert won, and in 1989, Akron City Hospital and St. Thomas Hospital merged to form Summa Health System, now the second-largest employer in Summit County.
But the merger wasnt easy, Gilbert says.
Its sort of like a major construction project, he explains. You always want to do one, but you never want to do more than one ... Youve got two different medical staffs, two different employee groups. So it just takes time.
Nobody taught Gilbert how to lead his hospital through these challenges.
Personally, I dont think you change because of your challenges. I think you bring to those challenges whatever attributes you have, and you hope that they match up to the task at hand, he says.
The foundation of communication and trust he had built with his staff is what got him through.
To manage a large organization to try to be successful requires an awful lot of communication and trust and understanding between your constituencies, he says. If thats there, then youre much better able to deal with a change in the environment. If its not there, its very difficult.
And how does Gilbert maintain that trust?
A lot of it is just communication, he says. If you have good communication in good times, when times change and become more threatening, youve got a base for communication in bad times.
Nothing tested that more than two events in the late 90s. In 1997, Summa faced financial challenges that forced administration to lay off approximately 90 employees. While Summas original plan was to lay off about 200, Gilbert says the hospital implemented creative strategies to cut that number in half.
First of all, we didnt want to do it, so we were very sensitive about who it impacted and how it was done, Gilbert says. Secondly, we didnt do it just by seniority. We created a values-based methodology. It was still very hard. ... Until that time, we had never had a layoff, and I was very proud of the fact that we never had a layoff. ... But I didnt view it as a failure, because it was happening in hospitals across the country.
What was even harder was when approximately 500 members of Local 684 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees went on a 3-month strike in November 1996 over job security issues. While the sight and sounds of nurses aides, orderlies, housekeepers, dietary and maintenance workers and technicians marching before Summas Arch Street headquarters wasnt exactly good PR The Akron Beacon Journal reported that disgruntled employees were seen praying with local ministers on the street and brandishing signs that said, Dr. Gilbert, Tell me again why my family cant have Christmas? the positive side of the situation remains at the forefront of Gilberts mind.
One of the things I discovered is that a group of people will pull together in adversity in amazing ways, he says of the employees who filled in for the striking workers.The people who were left to do the work did it with a great deal of enthusiasm and positiveness. Yet at the same time, there was a lot of sadness, because a lot of their friends were on the street. It was not a pleasant situation.
W hile the strike did end and the union members did return, Gilbert points out that they still dont have a signed contract.
However, Gilbert has made progress in other ways. Summas relationship with The Cleveland Clinic which began five years ago with the formation of the Cleveland Health Network, a consortium of 17 area health systems that work together to get better managed care contracts grew closer with the July announcement that Summa is officially a part of the Cleveland Clinic Health System.
The affiliation not only enables each hospital to share resources, it better prepares Summa to thrive.
Gilbert is happy to report that Summas future will soon be in somebody elses hands. In May, he announced that Thomas Strauss, former senior vice president of operations at Meridia Health System, another member of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, would succeed him as president and CEO of Summa.
While Gilbert says he doesnt plan to officially retire I may not start till noon, but I will do something else, he says with a smile he is surprisingly at ease with letting go of a job hes had for more than a quarter of a century. His reason?
I think it gets back to ego, he says. This job does not belong to me. This is not my company. A lot of things that weve done over the years have enhanced this organization and have gotten us to the position where we get recognition.
But it really belongs to the community. ... Im not saying I wont miss it. But I cant do it forever.
So what are Gilberts plans?
I dont have any plans, he says matter of factly. I think its important for an organization to plan, but Im not convinced its important for an individual to plan. Maybe its because the organization is going to be here forever, but individuals are not. So you dont know what youre planning for, do you?
Im not a fatalist or [a] one-day-at-a-time [person], but I just dont worry about those things.
He grins. Ill have a great time whatever I do.
For the last nine years, Michael DiMaio, president of Fairlawns Michael DiMaio & Associates Inc., has helped area businesses create up-to-the-minute work environments that not only make employees happy but make them productive as well.
Then one day he looked around his West Market Street offices and thought hed better do something for himself.
Its like that old story about the cobblers children having no shoes, DiMaio says of many architectural firms. Were out there designing great spaces, great homes, and sometimes our own space is rubbish.
DiMaios space may not have been rubbish, but he knew it needed improvement. Over time, the size of his firm outgrew the size of his space, and he thought his employees could benefit from a more stylish interior. What he didnt know is how much he would benefit from the improvements he made.
Its affected productivity greatly, DiMaio says of his January move to Fairlawn. People get more done, and theyve taken on more responsibility. ... They feel good about the company, so they have a positive attitude, and a positive attitude causes good things to happen.
Ive had a number of my employees say to me, Thank you for putting us into this space.
Hes not alone. According to DiMaio, more and more employers are sinking money into their office interior to keep quality employees at the company and get the most out of them while theyre there. In an age in which people jump jobs as often as they change shoes, everything including the color of their office space counts.
The average worker spends between two and four years with his company, where some length of time ago it was between 20 and 40 years, DiMaio says. Its all about choices. People make their decisions based on benefits, corporate culture, flexibility, quality of lifestyle, quality of workspace. When we bring new hires into this office and we say, This is what were all about, we see theyre impressed. It becomes a place they want to work for.
Maybe thats why DiMaio took the time to ask his employees what they wanted out of their new workspace before he began drafting plans. Maybe thats also why Joel Wolfgang, owner of Akrons Joel R. Wolfgang & Associates interior design firm, interviews up to 100 employees in a company before he starts a design job.
I have to find out whats wrong, Wolfgang explains. Theres going to be a common link. Its going to be, Its dark in here. Or my eyes hurt at the end of the day. Or I have a glare coming in this window. You might get that from 50 to 100 people. ... We sit with them for a very long time to find out what their needs are and how their tastes are different.
Wolfgangs investigations uncover a wide variety of problems from complaints about the aquamarine color on the walls to the lighting that gives them a headache to the office layout that forces them to run what seems like a mile just to get to the copy machine.
We might find out that the copy room is in the wrong place, that they have to walk too far to make copies, or that having two fax rooms or two copy rooms would be better for them, he says.
Wolfgang and DiMaio say that providing something as simple as natural lighting can do wonders for your busy crew.
If the suns shining, and theres blue skies, people like to see it, because theres not very many sunny days, DiMaio says.
But replacing your drab interior with todays colors and fabrics even giving employees a funky mousepad or two can be an innovative way to tap into creativity your employees didnt even know was there.
If its old in style if its not progressive it gives people a sense that theyre not up-to-date, that theyre not hip, that theyre not on the cutting edge, DiMaio says. The quality of their workplace affects their attitude and hence affects their productivity.
But how do you know if youre going to see a return on your remodeling investment?
If you have cinderblock walls and concrete floors, thats going to affect productivity, DiMaio says. But do you need $20-a-yard or $40-a-yard carpet to make an employee more productive? What it boils down to is the personality of the business owner. Some want to make a statement about who they are vis a vis the space that they are in ... But others simply say, We have to do something about the noise in this space or we need more room.
Employers should encourage employees to take their office environments into their own hands. While working in a glistening downtown office building in a corner suite that appears to be plucked out of a movie set may make some people happy, Wolfgang says nothing is more powerful than what you can with your office space yourself.
You should surround yourself with things that you love, he says. That doesnt mean you have to have 75 pictures on your desk and four bouquets of flowers. It means that you should look up and see something that says, Im working here for a reason. Im looking ahead to something.
It gives you a reason to go home at night.
And thats the space that matters most.
How to reach: Michael DiMaio & Associates Inc., (330) 836-2343; Joel R. Wolfgang & Associates, (330) 659-7000
Jordan Greenwald, chief financial officer of Cantons GDK & Co., is searching for words to explain why his insurance benefits and estate-planning firm recently changed its name from the multisyllabic Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase to the short and snappy GDK & Co.
When hes asked how to spell Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase, he laughs.
Thats exactly why we changed the name, he says. For the past nine years, whenever somebody asked what company I was from, I would say Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase and I would get this glazed-over look. Then I would always end up doing what I just did spelling the entire name out.
It got to be so problematic that we figured we would just go by GDK & Co. Most of our clients had gotten used to us saying GDK anyway.
The company started in 1975 by Stanley Greenwald, Don Deitemeyer and Rich Kase is just one of many firms that have recently changed their names from encyclopedia-length monikers to acronyms that are easier to remember and easier to spell.
Two years ago, Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb created an umbrella company called SS&G Financial Services under which the accounting firm (which still goes by Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb) and other divisions exist. The move not only enabled the company to offer investment services, which accounting firms arent allowed to do, it gave the company an identity it never had.
For a long time, I heard, Are you lawyers? Accountants? Architects? What do you do? says Kathy Sautters, marketing director for the 30-year-old company. SS&G Financial Services is much easier to remember, much easier to pronounce, and it says what we do.
Coming up with the new name was fairly simple, Sautters says. We said, How bout this? How bout this? How bout this? she remembers. I went ahead and came up with the logo and bam! That was it. And its been good for us. Weve had clients for years who didnt realize the different services that we offered.
But changing your name can be risky. If you have market recognition with your former name, you may lose a lot of goodwill in the marketplace, says Eugene Moncrief, president of MerriHill Inc., a business consulting firm that recently shortened its name by dropping the word consulting. Moncrief concedes that changing your name can be beneficial. But choosing an acronym isnt always the way to go.
General Motors means cars, he says. General Electric means electricity. But XYZ Co. doesnt tell you whether you make drugs or shotguns.
Perhaps thats why SS&G included financial services in its name and GDK & Co. added the tagline net worth and benefits to their logo. Still, both Greenwald and Sautters say their companies have experienced a bit of confusion since they made their moves.
Were still struggling with it two years later, Sautters says. People know us by Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb. Its even hard for our staff members to know what they should call us.
Greenwald agrees: Weve gotten a bit of, Oh. I didnt realize it was you, he says.
But in the end, hes certain that the company made the right move. After all, he says, Its a lot easier to spell D than Deitemeyer.
How to reach: GDK & Co., (330) 966-5577; SS&G, (330) 668-9696; MerriHill Inc., (330) 836-6626
If your company is like ours, finding good, well-trained people is one of your toughest challenges. Right now, many parts of Ohio, including Columbus and its surrounding communities, are experiencing an unprecedented skilled labor crisis.
Trained technology workers are in short supply and hot demand. At ADC Information Technology Services, we feel it every day.
We have a large, untapped future labor source in our community, one that stands ready to fill our employment gap but needs the right training to make the jump. The labor source is our children, and there are several educational programs that are working to ready students for technology jobs.
It's been my pleasure to be associated with an educational program called Tech Prep that has a proven track record of preparing students for technology positions in our communities. Tech Prep combines innovative thinking with new ways of learning, focusing on college prep academics while allowing students to learn through hands-on applications. It begins in high school and continues through a college program in the technology-related area of a student's choice.
Tech Prep is important to businesses in our communities because it is one of the most comprehensive approaches to broadening the pipeline of future technology workers. This year, we will have 350 graduates from 24 Tech Prep high school programs.
These students will be prepared for entry-level, technology-related jobs in fields including automotive diagnostics, business, construction, engineering, environmental, computer information, health and agriculture. Students are also prepared to continue on to a two- or four-year technology-related degree in a Tech Prep pathway.
Many students will work while going to school. Those who graduate from our college Tech Prep programs are finding tremendous success in the workplace, commanding top dollar and standing out as valuable workers.
But education can't go it alone. Today, more than ever, we need businesses to help guide and enrich the kinds of learning experiences that make Tech Prep students successful in their courses. We need business partners to help design and update what courses the students study. We look to employers to provide much-needed information about what business and industry requires of its employees.
Many of our business partners hire Tech Prep students and teachers for internships, job shadowing and summer jobs or give them mentoring experiences throughout the school year. Executives and managers have spoken in Tech Prep classrooms and many businesses have provided in-kind donations to support student successes.
I got involved with Tech Prep to be sure my company has a hand in shaping the work force of tomorrow. Plus, we get the first look at the best and brightest employees.
For more information, visit the Tech Prep Web site at www.cscc.edu/techprep.
How to reach: Connie Faddis, director, Heart of Ohio Tech Prep Consortium, c/o Columbus State Community College, 287-5319 or email@example.com; or Leigh Trapp, Tech Prep development coordinator, c/o Ohio University-Lancaster, (740) 654-6711, ext. 216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Chip Chapman is president of the Heart of Ohio Tech Prep board of directors and president and co-founder of ADC Information Technology Services.
You thought it was one of the best decisions you ever made. But then you saw the results.
Employees strolled into the office wearing ripped jeans, tennis shoes and baseball hats. And executives were confused. Should I wear a tie or not? Is a polo shirt and khakis OK?
Putting on a suit and tie and leaving for work is a no-brainer, says George Frankino, co-owner of Canterbury Clothiers in Fairlawn. But when it comes to coordinating slacks and a shirt, they need our help or their wifes help.
Companies thought they were giving their employees a perk by letting them come to work casual, Frankino concludes. But the minute they say, Were going casual, there is a state of confusion about what to wear to work.
That confusion ranges from whether a collarless shirt is acceptable to whether a company should instill a business casual dress policy at all. The questions are endless: What will clients think when they see an employee in jeans and a T-shirt? And will casual dress make employees work harder or slump at their desks?
No matter what your concerns, you can be sure of one thing: Business casual isnt going to go away.
In a recent survey conducted by Management Recruiters International, 87 percent of executives said that within the next decade, the business suit will be rarely worn. But many companies are resisting. Akrons Roetzel & Andress law firm allows its employees to dress casually on occasion to celebrate a Cleveland Indians winning streak, for example. But it understands the seriousness of its decision.
According to Ann Coplan, director of recruiting at the firm, the company e-mails its employees with dress guidelines before the casual day and places a placard at the receptionists desk to let clients know. That way, they dont question why everyone is dressed in Indians garb, she says.
But why doesnt the firm institute a business casual dress policy every day?
Law firms have a certain image that the clients and the community hope to see, Coplan says. We try to present that image. If you get too casual, you lose that.
Other companies implement a business casual dress policy so they wont lose employees. Two years ago, Babcox Publications, an Akron-based trade magazine publisher, expanded its business casual dress policy from Fridays-only to every day of the week.
The reaction has been very positive, says Greg Cira, chief financial officer of the company. But it opens up a lot of questions. If you have strictly business dress, you have six different kinds of suits. If you open up casual dress, there are hundreds of ways to go.
Thats why Frankino suggests businesses come up with guidelines that detail what is acceptable and what is not before they institute the policy. After all, Some people will show up in sport coats, some people will show up in Levis and some people will show up looking like they should be outside washing cars for a fund-raiser, he says.
When Babcox noticed employees were wearing everything from freshly pressed Dockers to backyard barbecue duds, it created a list of fashion dos and donts for male and female employees.
One of the lines that we use in our personnel manual is that when you get home, if you feel that you dont have to change, then youve probably dressed too casually, Cira says.
But if employees show up in ripped or torn clothing, hats, excessively worn clothing, untucked shirttails,; sweatpants or T-shirts with large, questionable or offensive text on them, they can count on going home. After all, Frankino says, You wouldnt want to see a person wearing a sweatshirt with Strohs beer written across it at work.
The most important question to ask yourself before instituting your companys dress policy is what kind of image do you want your company to project? And what will dressing casually cost your company and your employees in the long run?
A lot of people believe casual dress breeds familiarity, says Bill Welsh, owner of William E. Welsh & Associates, a management consulting firm in Akron. You get kinda laidback, a little sloppy.
Despite the fact that the Bureau of National Affairs says that 79 percent of employers believe casual dress improves morale among employees, Frankino believes the better youre dressed, the better youll perform.
Psychologically, I still believe if I was sitting at my desk making phone calls, Id feel better with a suit on, he says. You always feel better dressed up. Its like putting on a tuxedo. You feel like the king of the world.
In fact, some companies have instituted formal dress days where women traipse into the office in sequined gowns and pearls and men don tuxedos and cufflinks to make sales presentations clients wont soon forget.
And while Frankino notes that business casual has become so popular that major manufacturers of fine tailored clothing have incorporated business casual clothing into their lines, he still believes dressing for success hasnt really changed.
Dress for your next position, what more can I say than that? he says. I dont think the man at the top is wearing a golf shirt to work. Id like to think hes still wearing a suit.
The first thing youre selling is yourself. If you look professional, your business is going to thrive.
How to reach: Canterbury Clothiers, (800) 286-8601; Babcox Publications, (330) 535-6117; William E. Welsh & Associates, (330) 864-9997
He verbally abused you and you want money.
She broke your contract and you want her to pay.
He sexually harassed you and you arent willing to let it go.
These and other conflicts drive businesses into court with million-dollar attorneys, resulting in money lost, relationships broken and energy spent in a detrimental way. This may explain why more and more companies are turning toward mediation to resolve conflicts, and why a study done by Jeanne Brett, a professor at Northwestern Universitys Graduate School of Management, concluded that people should consider mediation first when trying to resolve a dispute.
Mediation aims to preserve the relationship, whereas litigation splits people up, explains Geri Nelson, director of Akrons Answers in Mediation, or AIM, a subsidiary of Medalegal Inc., a company she established in 1988 that settles insurance claims. It teaches people how to work through problems and come up with a solution that is satisfactory to all.
But its benefits are greater than that.
Its cost effective. It has better outcomes. It preserves the relationship. Its future-focused. Its communicative. Its educational. Its time-saving, Nelson says.
It also makes a lot of sense.
The Old Testament is based on mediation principles of justice, equity, restitution, Nelson says. These are values that have been around for thousands of years.
The mediation process is fairly simple. Once Nelson identifies the major players in a dispute and gets them together, she does what she calls history gathering which enables each person to tell his or her side of the story. While the parties have probably shared or shouted their feelings at each other many times before, the mediator acts as a sieve through which emotion is filtered so that the problem exposes itself.
The emotions involved in a dispute keep people from seeing clearly, Nelson explains. People dont always know what their issues are, particularly if theyve been embroiled in a confrontation for a long time. ... A mediator helps diffuse their emotions to get the real facts on the table so that they can be dealt with.
Once Nelson gets the problem which usually result from a lack of communication, miscommunication or poor communication, she says on the table, the parties negotiate from an interest-based, not a position-based, stance.
If a woman has been sexually harassed, she might walk into a mediation and say, I want him fired. Thats a position, Nelson says. The mediator may say, Why do you want him fired? She says, Well, I feel uncomfortable when I go to work. I feel like my input is not valued. I feel as if I am physically in harm. Those are interests. So if you can meet those interests, you can solve the dispute.
The key difference between mediation and arbitration lies in the next step, which enables the parties to work together to find a solution that pleases all. The parties come up with their own answers, rather than having something imposed by a court, Nelson says. Then there needs to be an evaluation process in place. Otherwise, a year from now, they may end up with the same problem.
The entire process takes between four hours and four days depending on the complexity of the case and costs between $75 to $125 per hour, which Nelson says is a fraction of what arbitration can cost.
The focus of the service is to produce successful outcomes, but its also a learning process, Nelson says. People come away with tools that they can use to solve problems in the future.
And that way, even mediation can be a part of their past.
Nike. McDonalds. Mercedes. These companies have more in common than just success. Whether you see a Nike logo on Tiger Woods cap, the golden arches on a road trip, or a Mercedes emblem on the car next to you on I-77, you not only recognize the company, you know what to expect.
As soon as you see the emblem, you think high-class, high-quality, says Todd Locke, president of Wern, Rausch, Locke Advertising Inc., a 45-year-old advertising agency in Canton. If you see the golden arches from two miles away, you know what to expect. It identifies the company.
Its no wonder, then, that companies large and small spend anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of million dollars designing and implementing their logos. After all, that design, illustration or lettering not only represents the company, it plays a vital role in the companys future success.
Two years ago, Lockes firm catapulted into the national spotlight when Mary Regula wife of House Rep. Ralph Regula, a Locke client for years asked the firm to compete with agencies from across the country to design a logo for the National First Ladies Library, devoted to the lives and legacies of Americas First Ladies.
Locke traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the committee that represented the library and returned with their ideas.
We were excited, says Robert Isenberg, creative director for the agency. We knew millions of people would be seeing it, so there was a lot more competition between the artists.
Over the next few weeks, artists at the agency designed 30 logos that met the committees mission.
They didnt want it to look real feminine and frilly, Isenberg says. They wanted people to take it very seriously.
When the artists work was done, Isenberg recruited friends, family and peers to review the logos and narrow them down to the top three.
We had people from all walks of life, Isenberg says. Men. Women. Different races. We wanted to make sure the logo appealed to everyone outside our little world of advertising.
Next, Locke returned to Washington, where he and the committee chose the winning logo. The committee not only picked a logo that was in the top three; they picked a logo designed by Isenberg. I was happy with the one they chose, Isenberg says, noting that the major design elements in the logo are stars, a quill and an elegant typeface. It indicated literature and history. And it has a very official look without being stodgy or boring.
The elements did what a good logo should do: They communicated the mission of the library in a memorable, simple way. And thats the most important thing, Isenberg says.
You want something that is simple but unique. Something that is going to stick in somebodys mind, he says. A lot of companies end up with a logo thats too complex because they want to tell the whole story of the company. It needs to tell a little bit about the company or the image of the company at a glance.
When designing your logo, keep these things in mind: Make sure the person whos making the final decision is involved in the process from the beginning. If after hours and hours of research and design, that person says, I dont like it, then you have to start over from ground zero, Isenberg says. That could cost your company money.
Make sure you choose a typeface that looks good in both small and large sizes and that you pick a design that matches your companys image.
If youre a law firm or a financial firm, youre obviously not going to have wild colors or crazy type, he says. You want to appear very stable.
What if youve already got a logo? How do you know its time for a change? First, Isenberg says, pay attention to what people say when they see your logo.
If people get the wrong idea about your company, misunderstand what your company is about by looking at your logo, if it doesnt stick in peoples minds, if it blends in with other logos, then it may be time for a change, he says. If we design a logo that doesnt stand out among the thousands of logos you see every day, then its a failed logo.
Also consider updating your logo if its gone out of style. Recently, Cantons Superior Dairy approached the agency, and asked Locke to inject a bit of energy back into its look. Their logo was starting to look a little bit stale, Isenberg says. We did a quick fix still the same colors, still the same recognition as before just a little bit more up to date.
But some logos such as the National First Ladies Library logo have to withstand the test of time. Locke not only knew this when he took on the project; he realized the role his agency would play for years to come.
Ten, 15, 20 years from now when my children and other peoples children recognize the contribution that our First Ladies have made well be a part of that, he says. As time goes by and the logo becomes a nationally recognized symbol, it will become more prestigious for us. We can say we had a hand in history.
Were used to hearing stories about teachers who care more about their next contract than they do about the kids, about communities which care more about professional sports teams than they do about education, about businesses which care more about the bottom line than they do about their employees.
But in the city of Canton, the teachers, the community and one prominent family care about education more than they care about themselves.
Three years ago, the Canton Board of Education asked the Canton Professional Educators Association if high school teachers would be willing to teach six classes a day instead of five. The teachers association not only agreed, it set off a domino effect of initiatives that will reform education in Canton and may have an impact on the nation as well.
The biggest push came when Jack Timken, executive director of the Timken Foundation of Canton a private family foundation established 65 years ago by Timken Co. founder Henry H. Timken Sr. met with his board to discuss educational reform in Canton. The foundation had long been involved in the citys educational system, but this time, not even Jack Timken realized how significant the contribution would be.
On a quiet day in late spring 1997, Canton Schools Superintendent Fred Blossers phone rang with news that still shocks him. On the other end of that phone was an equally shocked Dennis Gray executive director of The Education Enhancement Partnership Inc., a not-for-profit organization that enacts school reform with news he couldnt wait to share.
Gray had recently talked with Jack Timken, who first announced some news to Gray and then made a request: The Timken Foundation was about to present the Canton City Schools with a $10 million grant to enact significant change in the system. Would Grays organization be willing to head the project up?
It was like a scene out of a television plot, Gray says. First, it was not asked for by the school district. Second, it was the largest private gift ever given to a single public school in the history of public education. And third, it was for research and development affecting teaching and learning, which usually gets shortchanged.
When Gray shared the news, Blosser recalls, I probably said something like, Youre kidding! But he wasnt kidding. And the Timken family wasnt kidding. And our teachers association wasnt kidding. And our board of education wasnt kidding. They truly place educational achievement as a top priority in this city, and they are willing to support it.
That support began in 1995, when the teachers association completed a study of the school district and the needs of its students. A superintendents advisory committee was doing a similar study at the same time, and a group called the Timken Regional Campus Development Committee was trying to figure out why enrollment numbers and student success at Timken High School had declined over the years.
The high school, built in 1939 with funds donated by the Timken Foundation, was once a national leader in vocational education.
Students had to test to get into the school, Blosser says. There was a waiting list to get into the school. They knew if they went there and received training they would have good, solid jobs waiting for them when they got out. Then the image, reputation and effectiveness of Timken High School came into question.
Over time, students who were interested in taking courses that would impress admissions officers at Big Ten colleges attended McKinley High School, while the rest attended Timken. Turns out the Timken Foundations original goal to create a school where students would throw their caps into the air armed with the skills they needed to get a job in manufacturing needed a renewal.
Timken High School was set up in 39 [because] there were a lot of young students who were coming out of school who werent prepared to work at companies like ours, Timken says. So weve kind of come full circle over the 60-some years since Timken High School was started. ... Technology is changing so rapidly, our schools have not been able to keep up. Thats what were really concerned about.
But before anyone knew the Timken Foundation had plans to donate the money, the teachers association and the board of education made a deal: High school teachers would teach six classes a day instead of five, but they wanted the school system to invest the $2 million it would save as a result into educational reform. They also wanted the board to consider their proposals to overhaul the system.
Less than a year after the association presented its plans, the board of education accepted its proposal to:
- Establish an Early Childhood Center;
- Establish a Freshman Academy; and
- Develop curriculum around four career clusters: business and marketing; health, human and public services; engineering, industrial and scientific technology; and communications and the arts.
It also accepted the Timken Regional Campus Development Committees idea to institute these programs through a college-like setting. Located in a nine-block area surrounding the original Timken High School, the Timken Regional Campus will eventually serve students from five other school districts. Freshmen from both Timken and McKinley High Schools start at the Freshman Academy, which opened last August to much fanfare and has a list of students waiting and hoping to get in.
The idea behind the academy is to ease students into high school, considered a very trying year. The freshman year of high school is a very high-casualty year lots of suspensions, lots of expulsions, lots of dropouts, says Gray. The Canton City Schools Department of Pupil Personnel notes that ninth grade students accounted for nearly half the suspensions during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years.
To curb those numbers, each student receives an advocate, who regularly monitors his or her progress. Teaching is done in teams, where math, science, social studies, family and consumer sciences, and English teachers work together to make classes more interesting. Kids get community service projects that allow them to go into the world and solve real problems.
After the freshman year, guidance counselors help students choose between the four academies kind of like a college freshman choosing between majoring in advertising or chemical engineering. Even kids who dont want direction get some and thats good for everyones future.
While the campus and its four academies wont be completely up and running for four to five years, and wont be in full flower for 10 years, Gray says, The Timken Foundations gift jump-started the project. It also gave the school system resources for research that rivals what private colleges may conduct.
The grant allowed us to send representatives through the United States and even into Germany to personally visit the best-practiced sites, Blosser says. The Timken family knows that you improve by finding models that work, studying those models, and adapting them to your situation. The grant gave us those resources.
The state of Ohio and voters in the city of Canton may further fuel the project.
In another jaw-dropping development, the state plans to award the district $129 million to improve school buildings if and only if voters pass a levy this November that will contribute $38 million to $40 million to the cause. (If the levy fails, the district has three more chances to pass it before the state rescinds its offer.)
The states contribution is the result of a 1992 lawsuit in which more than 500 school districts i n Ohio claimed that the way the state funded schools was unconstitutional. Two years after the State Supreme Court agreed, Gov. Robert Taft increased the budget for school construction by $350 million. If the levy passes, Timken Regional Campus will receive $35 million of the $129 million award.
While some citizens have raised concerns about how the districts plans to raze school buildings and build new ones elsewhere will drive down their property values, Blosser is optimistic that the levy will pass.
This community has traditionally supported its children, and we have had a very positive record of passage, he says. But its also a great investment. This community will see $3 for every $1 it invests. If you go purchase a car and the dealer says, Ill give you 75 percent off, youd probably go to that dealer.
Blosser also says hiring Adrienne ONeill as chief education officer of Timken Regional Campus was a good investment. The 55-year-old mother of 10 who has a doctorate in education most recently served as president of the Academy of Business School in Phoenix and beat out 170 applicants for the job. Why?
I want to make this into the very best possible school that it can be, ONeill says. And I want it to become a national model for educational reform.
Thats exactly what the Timken Foundation had in mind. The Timken family has always believed that it should invest in the small towns where it has plants, to attract good people and make it a place where they could settle down and raise a family, Jack Timken says. But the foundation purposely donated a significant amount of money to the Canton City Schools so that their change would be felt here and around the country.
The gesture was not only generous, it showed a tremendous amount of trust, Gray says.
Im constantly finding people who are just sort of open-mouthed and surprised and in awe that a small community like this would have such a display of generosity and confidence by a single donor that would say, Heres $10 million. Take it and make a world-class school out of a school that has fallen on bad times.
Thats exactly why the Timkens donated so much.
The amount was pretty big, but at the same time, all of us said to ourselves, We have one chance to really to do something, and this is the absolute right place in time to do it, Timken says. If you make an improvement in the education system here that is dramatic, it will travel to other places and change the way education is practiced. It will improve our country as a whole.
You start with the first step in any journey, he adds. Once you take that first step and decide where you want to go, then youre pursuing your dream.
Blosser says the Timken Foundation has given thousands of students a chance to pursue their dreams a chance they may not have otherwise had.
Sixty-four percent of my student body comes from a home that cannot afford to purchase a school lunch, Blosser says. As such, we have far too many students who are falling through the cracks and not attempting to grab hold of the American dream. This project is designed to close those cracks and inspire them to grab the American dream through education. Its their only ticket that works.
I think the Timkens recognize that, Blosser adds. We recognize that. This project will give impoverished, inner-city kids a chance.
Is your business in financial trouble? Youre not alone.
Henry Ford failed twice before he founded Ford Motor Co. And Ted Turner, vice-chairman of Time Warner Inc. and founder of CNN, nearly went bankrupt four times before he made his $7.8 billion fortune.
Nobody knows how Ford and Turner turned their businesses around so that they would eventually become two of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 20th century. But every business owner should know how to recognize the signs that their business is in trouble and what they can do to save it before it goes belly-up.
Marc Gertz, an attorney with Akrons Goldman & Rosen LTD, says recognizing the signs that your business is in trouble isnt rocket science.
Not having enough money to make payroll, to buy inventory, to pay your taxes, bouncing checks, he says. Those are pretty good signs that things arent going as well as youd like them to go.
But why do business owners end up in that position? First, they underestimate what it really takes to make a business successful.
Restaurants have the highest rate of failure of any business. Yet everybody who can boil an egg feels that they are a restaurateur, Gertz says. Everybody believes that they will be the exception and not the rule. That they will be the one who creates a thriving enterprise and lives happily ever after.
But that fairy-tale ending will elude people who dont ask themselves the right questions before opening their business and who dont do the type of planning that tells them that, for example, the donut shop down the street sells its chocolate-covered confections for 50 cents less than they do or that there are already four Dunkin Donut shops on the street.
Still, even if you devise a business plan that would impress Alan Greenspan, you might end up in bankruptcy court if you dont put the right people in place.
Lets just say youre a fabulous marketing person, says Kathryn Belfance, an attorney with Akrons Belfance & Belfance, a law firm that specializes in bankruptcy. You can sell brooms or detergent or anything to anybody. But you cant stand numbers, and youre not a particularly good manager.
If you dont hire an accountant and a manager, she adds, Youre not using your real talents, because youre doing things that youre really not equipped or have any ability to do.
Still, business owners whove raided top people from Fortune 500 companies make crucial errors that bleed money out of the company. Its at this point or earlier when you should call your attorney or accountant to get some help.
Theres a tendency for people to bury their heads in the sand, not wanting to accept or believe that their business is in real trouble, Belfance says. Essentially, what they do is run to get more money without solving the problem. More money is not going to solve the problem. The same problem is going to be there once that money is gone.
Much like a cancer patient who goes to see a doctor as soon as he or she starts feeling ill, the earlier you contact your accountant or attorney, the better chance you have to survive. Once you trudge in the door, most will do a projection to see if you can turn things around, cut deals with your critical vendors so they will continue to supply you, look for ways to increase profits and look for excess overhead you can cut.
When Akrons Cotter Merchandise Storage Co. almost closed its doors in 1990, John Seikel, owner of John J. Seikel & Associates accounting firm, brought it back to life through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which gives companies time to reorganize so that they can pay off their debts as opposed to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is a straight liquidation.
They fell into hard times because they tried to grow too fast, Seikel says of the $8 million company. They took a large sum of money [and] started a new company in Texas. It was supposed to make money in 18 months. At the end of 2 1/2 years, it had lost $4 million.
At the same time, they started a new division here that lost $1 million in its first year, he continues. So all these new things took all their cash reserves, and then they started borrowing money at 16, 17, 18 percent just to keep it going.
And thats one of the most foolish things you can do.
That means to make money, you have to make 25 to 30 percent on every sale. You cant make 15, Seikel says. Many businesses get trapped in that destructive cycle. But remember, Gertz says, Sometimes you can keep the life support system going on the body too long and try to resuscitate a business that is just dead.
Before you borrow another nickel, Belfance suggests you make changes that will help your business come back to life.
Does this mean you have to lay off some people? she asks. Does this mean you have to close an unprofitable portion of your business? Does this mean you have to switch gears and do something that is going to increase revenues? Does this mean you have to move your enterprise to a smaller location? Does this mean you have to sell off the enterprises assets to reduce debt?
Some of those decisions especially whether you should lay off employees can be tough. But its the CEO who can make those decisions who will survive.
Ive seen companies that are clearly overstaffed, spending way too much money on payroll, but they dont want to put a guy out of work, Gertz says. Thats nice that they feel humanistically about their employees. But theyre going to save the pancreas and kill the patient. There wont be a business at all.
According to Seikel, one of the stupidest decisions business owners can make during troubled times is to pay the squeaky wheel before they pay critical vendors that they need to keep their business alive. And while you may feel compelled to hide under the desk when theyre knocking on your door, surprisingly, its often in their best interest to help you out.
We had a company in Akron with five major vendors, Seikel says. Instead of going into bankruptcy, we asked them to meet with us, and we were able to negotiate a deal. ... What would have happened if we went into Chapter 11? What would they have gotten? They took a chance, and, in the end, they got all their money, and they kept the customer.
The most dangerous thing business owners can do when theyre considering hawking their grandfathers watch just to keep the business going is to put off paying taxes.
Once you get far behind in terms of paying your taxes, youre dead, Gertz says.
Even if you file for personal bankruptcy, those debts will never go away. Theyll chase you to your estate, Seikel laughs.
One thing that will go away, however, is the pain that you feel if you end up closing your doors after all. In fact, Belfance says many business owners feel enormous relief once they give their business its last rights.
Once people accept the fact that they can survive this kind of loss, that they will be OK, that they still have their life, they generally experience enormous relief, because oftentimes, they werent equipped to do what they thought they could do, she says. The fact of the matter is, not everybody can be an entrepreneur. And that is OK.
How to reach: Goldman & Rosen Ltd., (330) 376-8336; Belfance & Belfance, (330) 535-0505; John J. Seikel & Associates, (330) 867-4733
Many fathers hope their sons will follow in their footsteps. Especially if they own a business.
Take Gary Giller. Since he graduated from Emory University in 1980, he has worked for his father, Stuart, on two different occasions. First, he worked at his dads Coca-Cola Bottling Co. franchise in Detroit, then he served as president and CEO of Strohs Ice Cream Co., a distressed company in Detroit his father bought in 1990.
While Gary went off on his own between those stints earning an MBA degree from Case Western Reserve University and working for five years at Clevelands Nacco Industries Inc. he says he cant help but hope that one day his son will work by his side.
Its a special relationship working for your father, says Gary, 40. What greater mentor or role model can you have in business than your father or grandfather?
Gary Giller and his brother, Lee, 42, president of Macedonias B. Berger Co., a textile company Lee owns with his father, are an example of sons who work for their fathers but march to their own drummers. While many see a family business as destiny if not duty others take the business they grew up with in an entirely different direction when they take over, or use it as a launching pad to open a business of their own.
The Gillers buy companies that are in trouble, turn them around and sell them. But the sons took a few detours along the way. Lee, an attorney, practiced law in Akron for two years before leaving to work for his fathers Coca-Cola Co. franchise. In 1988, he returned to Akron to practice law for another two years. In the end, he says, I decided I would rather be in a family business.
In 1991, Lee and his father stepped in at the eleventh hour and bought the troubled B. Berger Co. with the goal of breathing new life into a corporation they knew had a great name.
Weve increased sales since then by four times, Lee says. We revived the energy in the company, and its back as one of the premiere companies for high-end textiles in the country.
Gary and his father enjoyed the same success with Strohs Ice Cream Co., founded in 1919 by The Stroh Brewery Co. After Stuart bought the company in 1990, he and Gary who served as president and CEO from 1996 until they sold the company last February made it the leading ice cream company in Michigan. But none of this could have happened if the father-and-son teams werent willing to learn from each other.
Its a two-way street, Stuart says. I give them direction, and they do a lot to keep me up to speed. I learned that I better get into the new millennium to become proficient with a computer. Im learning from them all the time.
Sometimes its not easy.
Phil Dannemiller, 56, always knew he would work for Cantons Convoy Inc., his fathers company that manufactures industrial containers, because Im German and dutiful, he jokes. But found that his eagerness to take the company into the future clashed with his fathers fears.
After I graduated from Northwestern University, I worked for a plastic container maker in England for a year, Dannemiller says. Europe was ahead of American plastics way ahead of us. I saw the future and came back ... But they werent quite ready.
Fearing that a foray into plastics would cannibalize the companys cardboard line, Phils father, Franklin, suggested they stick to what had made them a success. They decided Phil should go on the road and sell the product, not only to learn more about the market, but to give both of them room to breathe.
Its like cooking three meals a day with your mother in the same kitchen for the rest of your life, but its her kitchen, Phil says of working in a family business. If everything meshes the temperments and everything then its beautiful. But if theres a difference of opinion, its difficult.
While the company did integrate plastics into its product line throughout the 15 years Phil spent in sales, it didnt fully embrace the newest technology until he took over as president after his father passed away.
Theres nothing more difficult to change than a successful company, he says. We were very profitable, and he kept saying, If Im so dumb, why do we do so well? I kept saying, Its like bald tires on a car. Theyre all filled with air, but the tread is going down. I dont want to wait till they blow and we go over the cliff.
These and other reasons such as different interests contribute to the fact that many sons inherit their fathers entrepreneurial spirit but choose to work for themselves. Mike Schiltz, 30, co-owner of Massillons Milepost Production, a video and multimedia production company, always knew he didnt want to work for Liquid Control Corp., his father Bills Canton company.
But, he adds, When I worked for him as a kid during the summers, in the back of my mind I thought, Some day, Im going to do something on my own.
Mikes main inspiration? Seeing how happy his father was going to work every day.
He wasnt waking up every morning saying, Damn, I have to go to work, he says. Now he has a multimillion-dollar corporation employing 100 or so people with plants in different states, and I have a three-man operation in Massillon, Ohio. But Im doing what I love, and hes doing what he loves.
Mikes brother, Mark, 32, is also doing what he loves working as an applications engineer for his father.
I always knew I didnt want to work here, Mark says with a laugh. I saw myself working outside or moving out of the state.
But when Mark got a job working at Cantons Rices Nursery after attending Kent State University, his father made him an offer he couldnt refuse.
I had just bought a duplex. I was pretty serious with a girl. And he was concerned about my financial well-being, Mark says. He said, Why dont you come to work for me? It was his approach that made me think about it and take him up on it ... Hes been a good teacher and friend all my life.
Today, Mark is working his way up in the company with the hopes of one day running the whole operation. But Akrons Mark DiFeo, 47, says he never planned on taking over DiFeo & Sons Poultry, his familys well-known Grant Street business which was founded in 1918.
As the oldest of seven children, I always thought a lot of people expected me to be the one, he says. But when I went to college, I thought, What can we do with this family business? Theres seven of us. How are we going to survive?
His idea? Cook the poultry and serve it inside.
Prepared foods. The wave of the future, he says.
His father resisted.
He was real leery about it, Mark says. He thought it might compete with our own customers. So for the first three years, it was a secret. We couldnt advertise.
In time, however, the business grew so much that Mark relocated to Fairlawn, where he says the concept exploded.
Theyd line up and order a half chicken and a pint of mashed potatoes, he says. Not only did they want it for lunch, they wanted it for organizations. Could you put somebody on the grill and cook steaks for us? Could you get someone to park our cars? Could you get someone to decorate?
After throwing a successful fund-raiser for then-Gov. George Voinovich, he says, I asked myself, Why am I continuing to do this day-to-day work when I ha ve clients that are willing to do these types of events?
In 1987, Mark founded Corporate Caterers by Mark DiFeo, and his business has been going strong ever since. So are his brothers.
Bob and Ed recently bought DiFeo & Sons Poultry from their father, Alfonso; brother Jim owns DiFeo Catering Inc. in Akron; and brother John operates DiFeos Chicken Carryout, which Mark started before moving to Fairlawn. Sister Lisa manages a health food store. The only sibling who works outside of the food business is Joe, 46, who started DiFeos Cellular Specialists in 1983 a GTE wireless cellular phone agent which last year was named the top agent for GTE in the Akron and Canton areas.
Asked why he didnt dig his heels into DiFeo & Sons Poultry, Joe says, It just wasnt in my blood.
But that was OK with dad.
I think my father recognized the fact that there were a lot of people who wanted to be a part of the business, and it wasnt going to be able to support everybody, Joe remembers. He realized that this was probably a good thing.
And sometimes, Mark adds, thats better for the family.
Its hard for one brother to take orders from another brother, Mark says. Its hard for one brother to be another brothers boss. Some work longer hours. Some work less. Some run businesses in a different way. This way, with each of us having our own business, we are able to share ideas.
Still, Joe adds, the reason each of them has that entrepreneurial spirit is because their father taught them to be independent thinkers.
We all want to do it ourselves, he says.
And it seems as if Alfonsos grandchildren will eventually want to do it themselves, too.
Asked whether his children will eventually take over his catering business, Mark DiFeo begins a slow laugh.
Theyre young yet, and in a way they like it, he says. But when people ask, Are you going to take over your dads business? they say, No. He works too hard.
How to reach: B. Berger Co.: (330) 425-3838; Mark DiFeo's Corporate Caterers (330) 869-8787; DiFeo's Cellular Specialists: (330) 773-6077; DiFeo & Sons Poultry: (330) 773-7881; Milepost Production: (330) 837-9251; Convoy Inc. (330) 453-8163."