That's why many companies invest in directors and officers (D&O) insurance. Just as medical malpractice insurance covers doctors, directors and officers insurance protects your company should a board member or officer make a costly mistake.
"More businesses have exposure to possible lawsuits than actually have this insurance," says Bob Fenner, CEO of Thomas Fenner Woods Agency Inc.
Fenner says even your employees can sue your company if they participate in a profit-sharing plan and feel they have lost money due to director or officer omission or error.
"Anyone that feels he or she has suffered a financial loss as a result of an error can file suit," says Fenner.
And due to events at Enron and WorldCom, there is a growing mistrust of larger companies.
"People feel that these companies misled investors," says Fenner.
So the need for D&O insurance has never been greater, but Fenner says thanks then recent accounting scandals, policies will not be as easy to come by and will be more costly.
"No doubt the policies will be more expensive and companies will be under more scrutiny by underwriters," said Fenner.
Insurance companies will be asking for more extensive financial statements that cover a longer period of time than they did previously.
"A company will need CPA-audited financial statements going back at least five years," says Fenner. "And there will be more scrutiny of the experience of the directors."
Underwriters will look for a conflict of interest and accounting signs of insider trading, as well as at the directors' experience, says Fenner. In the application process, they'll also look for downsizing plans and seek explanations.
Smaller firms that previously purchased D&O insurance because it also protected them against potential employee discrimination suits might now be better served by purchasing an Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy, says Fenner. However, if your company is publicly traded and has 10 or more shareholders, D&O insurance is highly recommended. How to reach: Thomas Fenner Woods Agency Inc., (614) 764-8999 or www.tfwinsurance.com
Here, working adults can find courses both online and in traditional classroom settings.
With most of these programs, the emphasis is on applying the classroom experience to the workplace the next day, which means your company benefits from Day One. Whether you're grooming a successor or sharpening your management skills, there are many academic institutions working to meet your needs.
Most managers and executives feel an MBA is a must, and several programs can provide not only a quality education but hands-on project experience and specialization.
The Fisher College of Business (FCB) of The Ohio State University offers a unique executive MBA program which students can complete in 17 months.
"The program is formatted for the employee that is moving up the ladder," says Carol Newcomb, director of executive education at FCB. "Two-thirds of the class material is offered in the classroom, the remainder is offered over the Web."
The programs encourages students to apply classroom knowledge to their jobs.
"I've heard a student say after the first session that he can use what he learned now," Newcomb says.
Students attending this program are chosen by their companies because they are bright, aggressive professionals climbing the corporate ladder. Many are doctors or lawyers who are leading their firms.
Neil Shnider, director of Capital University's MBA program, says Capital offers two types of MBA programs, each directed to a particular type of student. There's a two-nights-a-week program for those working full time and a day program for full-time students.
"We offer every required course every semester," says Shnider.
And Capital offers the only 12-month daytime MBA program in the city.
"It's a very structured program," he says.
Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University offers both the MBA and technology oriented management degree programs.
"Our MBA program and the Master of Information System Management program are the most popular," says Terri Lechton, Keller's center director. "We offer evening, weekend and online formats, and the ability to mix and match them for maximum flexibility."
Lechton says the school's student base includes employees from the area's largest firms as well as budding entrepreneurs.
"In all of our classes, students undertake projects or consult with organizations in the community to apply and sharpen their skills," Lechton says. "They help organizations that do not have the resources to hire external consultants."
Keller offers six specialized master's degree programs that include a Master of Human Resource Management, a Master of Telecommunications Management and, a Master of Project Management. Again, technology is a strong focus of these programs.
"Many of our students are already mid-level managers building skills to move up in their organizations," says Lechton.
Capital University also offers specialized master's and MBA programs. Students can earn a combination of degrees, such as an MBA/JD, MBA/MT (master's of taxation) and MBA/MSN (master's of nursing).
Newcomb, of the Fisher College of Business, says the school has found there's a need for leadership training. In response, it has created its Emerging Leaders Program, in which students meet once a month and work on specific projects.
"The student can apply what he or she is learning immediately," says Newcomb.
Students also receive individual mentoring and counseling.
According to Newcomb, this program is ideal for professionals who have been focused on one area of a business, such as engineering, who are becoming executives. The program shows students how all departments of a corporation work together.
Companies looking to improve processes and efficiencies can also take part in FCB's Six Sigma program. The program, developed by Motorola, is a disciplined, data-driven approach for eliminating waste by improving the quality of organizational processes and products. In other words, it's a way to systematically improve bottom-line results by eliminating defects throughout the value stream.
FCB's program combines one week of classroom experience with 120 hours of online learning to ready the student for the Six Sigma Black Belt, or certification exam.
For small to mid-sized businesses wanting to develop a new or revised business plan, the resource may be the Ohio Foundation of Entrepreneurial Education (OFEE).
"We offer custom business plan programming," says OFEE executive director Sandy Dickinson. "It is very much applicable to new businesses, those looking to revamp their plan or companies looking to move into a new phase."
The program also helps corporate departments develop business plans and assists with new product development.
"The same analysis can be done to address a whole new product line," Dickinson says.
OFEE also offers the program to consulting firms. "Banks, law firms or accounting firms can offer the program to their clients," she says.
Companies can take advantage of programs to provide employees with new skills. Jan Wagner, dean of community education and work force development at Columbus State Community College, says her department's goal is to upgrade the skill level of the area's work force and transition welfare recipients to work.
"We contract with employers to provide the specific job training they need," Wagner says. "Essentially, when the employer calls, we go to the work site and do an assessment."
Columbus State can customize almost any training program to fit a company's needs, "although education is not always the answer to the problem," Wagner says.
Columbus State develops the curriculum and partners with experts on and off campus to ensure the program's quality.
"We had a group of forensic pathologists that wanted a program for digging up bones and determining their age and other information," says Wagner. "We contacted a professional organization expert in this area to help develop the program.
"If we don't have a person on staff, we have a link to the correct professional. How to reach: The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, (614) 292-8511; Capital University, (614) 236-6670; Keller School of Management of DeVry University, (614) 251-6969; Ohio Foundation of Entrepreneurial Education, (614) 264-9047; Columbus State Community College, (614) 287-2400.
The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) has been elected to the 2002 Associations Advance American Honor Roll, a national awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives in Washington, D.C. The OSBA received the award for its "Legal Eagle" program, designed to provide legal information on a variety of topics in lay terms to television news viewers.
Allen S. Birrer, DO, received the Ohio Osteopathic Association Trustees' Award, recognizing his contributions to the osteopathic profession in Ohio.
Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP appointed Peter T. Cahoon co-chairman of the Litigation Practice Group. He has represented clients in trials and appeals in federal and state courts in Northeast Ohio since 1977 and is on the Board of Governors of the Akron Bar Association Foundation.
David A. Royer, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County, was elected as an at-large member of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities' Executive Council. He will serve as a member of the governing board.
Edsall & Associates, a planners/landscape architects firm, was named 2002 Business of the Year by the City of Columbus Equal Business Opportunity Commission Office.
Regis Financial Group has moved to 900 Club Drive, Suite H, Westerville. The company offers financial planning, investments, insurance and mortgages.
James A. Wilson, a partner at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, has been selected publications officer of the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association. In this two-year assignment, he is responsible for all publications of the Antitrust Section, including books, treatises, handbooks and others.
MCR Services Inc., a full-service commercial construction company, hired Delbert A. Smith II as vice president of field operations. He will oversee the completion of nearly $10 million in projects this year.
WOSU Stations General Manager Dale K. Ouzts received the 2002 Public Radio Regional Organizations Award in recognition for his significant contribution to radio, commitment to public broadcasting and 35-year dedication to the industry.
Conrad, Phillips & Vutech, a Columbus-based marketing and advertising agency, received a National Silver ADDY Award in the sales kit category. The award was presented for the firm's work on behalf of Studio for Architecture, an East Norwalk, Conn., firm.
Law firm Thompson Hine LLP received the 2002 Burton Award for Legal Achievement. Only 15 of the nation's top 500 law firms receive this award each year. The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement is a national program dedicated to refining and enriching legal writing. Partners Mark A. Conway and John H. Wendeln received the award for their article, "IRS Issues New Proposed Regulations Simplifying Minimum Distribution Rules," which appeared in the March 2001 edition of The Banking Law Journal.
Sandy P. Baker, president of BWXT of Ohio Inc. in Miamisburg, Joe Weller, president and CEO of Nestle USA in Solon, and Dwight Smith, president and CEO of Sophisticated Systems Inc. of Columbus received this year's Governor's Recognition Award for Minority Business for their support of minority owned businesses.
How did she make this transaction happen in a matter of days? Dr. Joan is a client -- she has maintained all of her personal and medical practice business with the same bank and has had a relationship manager in its private banking department for three years. Because her banker has a personal relationship with her, has all of her financial information and has discussed her goal of purchasing a building, her loan request was approved Saturday over the telephone.
Establishing a solid working relationship with your banker is crucial to accumulating, growing and preserving wealth. Private banking was established by financial institutions to develop, maintain and grow strong relationships with clients, referred to as private client group, investment advisers or wealth management.
Whatever the name, private bankers focus on providing superior service and customized financial solutions and products to professionals and their families.
Here are several factors to consider when establishing a relationship with the private banking division of a financial institution.
* Quality of banker/adviser. Look for a true partner to help you attain personal financial goals. While education, licensing and certifications are important, the banker/adviser's experience, reputation and ability should be the overriding factors. The primary role should be to coordinate financial services and products for the client.
* Responsiveness and support. Establish expectations. Only when the client and banker/adviser share expectations will the relationship grow and flourish. The banker/adviser should provide the names of support staff and their capabilities in the event that he or she is unavailable.
* Service and product offerings. Unless a bank specializes in a market segment, it is essential it offers a full spectrum of products.
* Strength of institution. The financial services industry has undergone tremendous change in the past 20 years as institutions have been acquired or dissolved. Select one with a stellar reputation, strong operating performance and solid credit ratings, especially if your goal is to transfer wealth to your heirs.
* Local decision-making. The banker/adviser and the local bank should be empowered to make decisions and customize services and products. Money managed outside the local market cannot be personalized if the client cannot communicate with the money manager directly. Products and services should be flexible enough to be tailored to the client's unique needs. Be wary of any firm that pushes "one-size-fits-all" standardized products and services.
Developing a banking relationship is an important part of business. The banker/adviser can be a valuable information source and help you network and grow your business. Ask other owners for recommendations and start a relationship that will enable you to reap personalized benefits and services. How to reach: Tom Mitevski is senior vice president for the Private Client Group at Fifth Third Bank. Reach him at (614) 233-4593 or Tom.Mitevski@53.com.
Panic is never good.
It makes us act rashly. It makes our hearts race and our palms sweat. It leads us to believe a situation is more dire than it typically is.
So stop panicking about the economy. It's not worth it.
Sure, some belt-tightening is in order during business slowdowns, but some of you are scaling back too much in your rush to prevent the sky from falling. In doing so, you are actually endangering your company further.
It's easy to work yourself into a frenzy over a poor financial outlook. After all, positive cashflow is everything. And when you've just revised your sales projections downward and you need to put company expenses in line with that new figure, the hatchet inevitably comes out.
Hold on. Before you start figuring up the body count, try being innovative.
Instead of laying off your six lowest-producing sales people, for instance, switch them from base-plus-commission to 100 percent commission -- but pay them a higher percentage of each sale. That way, you don't have poor performers weighing down your balance sheet month after month, and those who can improve their sales will be adequately rewarded.
If you lose a few people under the new system, so be it. You were going to cut their jobs anyway.
Another option is barter. When money is tight, trading your product or service to cover a budgetary necessity -- office supplies, commercial printing, courier services, even rent -- could help perk up your bottom line.
If, after exploring options like these, layoffs are still necessary, step carefully. Remember:
* Every staff cut puts an additional burden on other workers who are expected to pick up the slack. Not only is that a morale killer, but suddenly those you counted on most are spending time on tasks they didn't sign up for -- and may not be qualified to do.
Frustration mounts. Their production slips and doesn't recover. It can't. You've simply put too much on their plate. You've set them up for failure. Your company will pay the price.
* If you cut down your work force to the point that every single person is indispensable -- so there is absolutely no redundancy in any position -- you're running too thin. People get sick. They take vacations. Accidents happen. You need to be sure your company can survive all of the above -- simultaneously.
* Smart companies find ways to eliminate most, if not all, the job tasks of the positions they're cutting. Slashing production staff by a third? Better phase out your slowest selling products along with those jobs. Eliminating the HR staff since you're under a hiring freeze?
Better outsource your benefits administration, since the stream of 401(k) and health insurance inquiries from "surviving" employees -- as well as the paperwork that goes along with payroll, government reporting, employee evaluations, etc. -- won't just disappear with the HR staff.
Recessions are scary, no doubt about it. But if fear causes you to cut back too far too fast, you may wind up worse off than if you'd done nothing at all. And that, my friends, just might be reason enough to panic. Nancy Byron (email@example.com) is editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.
When you don't know it all
Susie Kauffman, owner of Stats Cafe Inc. in downtown Columbus, was a mentor with the chamber's Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training program when she decided she could use a mentor herself. Here's how she leaned on fellow restaurateur Sue Doody of Lindey's to help her make decisions in her own business.
Interviewed by Joan Slattery Wall
What prompted you to seek a mentor?
I had been in business, I think at that point, four or five years and was considering some expansion. I thought I'd like to have somebody to talk to about that, to guide me through it or help me decide whether that was a good idea for me.
What was the dilemma?
To me, it was going to be whether I would still be a hands-on person just here or if [the business] would become big enough that I'd be an administrator. I couldn't see me actually still cooking and taking care of customers and trying to run several different places at the same time. I ended up deciding that I wanted to just stay here and try to have some kind of personal life.
How did Sue Doody help you reach that decision?
I gave her the situation and she came up with some good points for me to think about. I might have come to the same conclusion on my own, but I felt very comfortable that I'd made a good decision after having her input.
What other issues did you talk about?
I was concerned about putting together something in writing like an employee manual, and she shared the one-I think it was from Bravo!-with me that they had put together. So instead of just stabbing in the dark [myself], she kind of said, "Here are some things that you should address in your manual."
Whenever I was having difficulty with an employee or employees, I talked with her about that.
What was important in making the mentor relationship work?
I think the fact that she was so willing to share information about her business with me. Some people are very closed-mouthed about their own experiences and they don't want to give away any secrets or anything. She never gave me the impression that she was worried about anything like that at all. Of course, I would have never revealed anything to anybody else that would compromise her business.
Also, it was important to bring her specific subject material or problem areas, or have some idea of where I needed some guidance from her. Although sometimes it's just nice to have somebody to discuss things; to throw things back and forth to somebody who's been in the business. I know a lot of other small-business owners. Everybody is so busy running your own business that you don't always talk with them very often ... about all the things that come up every day.
What advice would you give other business owners interested in working with a mentor?
Particularly at the early stages of your business, it's very beneficial to have someone-in the same business or not-just someone you can talk to about different problems, because you always have something come up that you haven't run across before.
In the mentorship, you should not hesitate to ask questions; don't think they're silly. And find someone you really feel like you can be open with.
Staying 'inn' the game
Customers were giving it straight to Red Roof Inns CEO Francis W. "Butch" Cash: It was time for a change. Here's how Cash listened to them and invested $68 million to renovate all 231 inns nationwide to improve customers' view of his product and stop a downward slide in occupancy rates.
By JOAN SLATTERY WALL
Customers were giving it straight to Red Roof Inns CEO Francis W. "Butch" Cash: It was time for a change. Here's how Cash listened to them and invested $68 million to renovate all 231 inns nationwide to improve customers' view of his product and stop a downward slide in occupancy rates.
By JOAN SLATTERY WALL
When Francis W. "Butch" Cash joined Red Roof Inns Inc. as president and CEO in July 1995, one of the first things he saw was a red flag.
Cash had come to Hilliard-based Red Roof Inns with experience as an executive vice president at Marriott Corp., which focused on customers' wants. At Red Roof Inns, however, he found that the basic philosophy was to be the low-cost provider-and to be consistent.
Cash notes: "As a guest said to me one time, 'When you wake up one morning in a Red Roof Inn, you might not know what city you are in, but you know you're in a Red Roof Inn.' "
But that philosophy of uniformity, alone, wasn't pleasing the customer.
Research indicated the company was starting to slide in some of the ratings, such as room appearance and security issues, says Cash.
Cash, who in 1996 assumed the additional position of chairman of the company, knew he'd have to make changes to keep the chain competitive-big changes-before the situation worsened.
So he initiated Big Red, a $68 million project to upgrade and renovate all 231 inns in the chain over a two-year period. The cost of the renovations in 1996 equaled 5 percent of the company's revenues, while the greater portion, spent in 1997, equaled 15 percent.
Cash spent a year and a half researching the needs and convincing his board to support the project before bringing it to fruition. It was a gamble, to be sure, since the payoff was not guaranteed. He carefully weighed the risks and potential rewards and then mustered up the courage to climb out on the limb.
"If you feel that it's the right thing to do, you've got to go with your gut," he says. "You never get to the point where you're 100 percent sure, 100 percent confident that this is going to work. You have to study it. But there's a point in time where you have to say, 'Here's what we've got to do.' "
Red Roof Inns' customers saw the truth: The chain had a good product, but it was dated-by nearly 10 years.
The decor hadn't changed since 1987. Despite no evidence to support it, guests perceived that the inns were less secure than competing inns because of the dark colors and dimly lit surroundings. Even inn managers complained that the old brown carpet never looked acceptable, no matter how many times it was cleaned.
These managers relayed to Cash what they had heard from guests. In fact, because customers said Red Roof didn't look as good as its competitors, inn managers told Cash they were uncomfortable charging the existing room rate.
Red Roof was also falling behind in its pursuit of executive guests.
"Our Business King room was, 10 years ago, the best room available for the business traveler," Cash says. "Over time, our competition caught up with us."
In the spring of 1996, Cash set out to convince his board of directors of the need for change-change he calls a defensive move rather than one justified by an immediate return on investment.
"When we went to our board we said, 'We cannot let our customer ratings continue to go down,' " he recalls.
Big Red would be financed out of the company's operating funds. In 1997, for example, operating income was $87 million, so there was no need for Red Roof to borrow money. In addition, Cash told the board that the changes would reduce repair and maintenance costs in the long haul. Add to that the troubling results of focus groups and customer surveys, and Cash did not have much trouble getting support from his board of directors.
"We wanted to end up with our hotels having a modern residential look and feel," he says. "We wanted to enhance the experience with all of our guests." He also wanted to reposition the Business King room as the premier room among similarly priced competitors-and increase the inns' occupancy rate at a time when there was a decrease industrywide for economy lodging chains.
According to Smith Travel Research, an independent firm in Tennessee that tracks the lodging industry, occupancy rates in the economy lodging segment for 1996 decreased 2.5 percent; between 1992 and 1995, the highest increase during any given year was 1 percent.
Cash started the Big Red transformation in the summer of 1996 by looking at room interiors; he knew Red Roof needed a new decor-and needed it fast.
Since his customers had told him what Red Roof was doing wrong, Cash wanted to ask them what would be right. He worked with an interior designer and decorated sample rooms at existing properties in the Columbus area to solicit guest comments before making the final decision.
Improving the dark exterior appearance of the properties involved more trial and error.
"We must have painted some of those doors 10 times before we got the color we wanted," Cash says, referring to the change from the dark green and brown color scheme to cream and red. Parking lots were restriped and sealed, and brighter lights were installed.
The planning stage involved about 50 senior managers from Red Roof's Hilliard headquarters, some of whom made nearly 30 visits to Red Roof properties across Ohio and out of state, to do testing and check feedback.
It took most of the summer to research and plan for the project; in the meantime, Red Roof Inns' staff worked out a schedule to complete the projects with the least disruption to guests. Renovations would begin during the latter months of 1996 and early 1997, when occupancy was traditionally lower.
To maintain close coordination between Red Roof Inns' operations staff and the outside design and construction crews, Cash made one of the chain's best managers, Skip King of the Dublin Red Roof Inn, responsible for the entire project.
Once work started, Cash was surprised to find out how difficult it was to complete the job in one fell swoop at each inn. Problems ranged from follow-up work when a project wasn't completed just right, to the case of one inn that still isn't complete-a husband and wife who have lived there for seven years simply don't want their room remodeled.
To ease the challenge, inn managers kept in touch with King to provide daily, and even hourly, feedback.
The bulk of the project was completed before 1997's busy summer season, but Red Roof still faced the challenge of publicizing the change to its customers-since some had sought other lodging during renovations.
"It hurts you in the short run," Cash admits, noting that guests will go across the street to another hotel to avoid the inconveniences of construction. To help draw back those customers and bring in new ones, Red Roof added the word "remodeled" to many of its 500 billboards, and during the summer of 1997 the company ran a special media promotion on television and radio and in USA Today.
The company spent approximately $5 million-20 percent of its 1997 sales and marketing budget-to promote the changes.
Right off the bat, Cash saw his primary goal fulfilled: Red Roof's occupancy rates increased 2.7 percent during the final quarter of 1997, after the bulk of the improvements were completed.
Also during that quarter, customer surveys showed improvement in 27 of 30 attributes, such as the cleanliness of the rooms and the value for the price as well as the room decor and safety issues that had fallen previously.
"So the customer is shouting back to us: 'Hey, we appreciate what you've done,' " Cash says.
Red Roof Inns has increased room rates-in all rooms, not just the Business Kings-every quarter since the Big Red project, while still staying an average of $1.50 per night lower than competitors, Cash says. An additional $1 million in income per year is generated from Red Roof's new video-on-demand ser vice added during renovations.
Also, as promised, 1997 repair and maintenance costs were reduced by $5 million-about 10 percent of that budget-and this year's budget is down another $2.5 million.
Employees appreciate the improvements, too.
"Our people are proud of what they're selling now," Cash says. Since the project's completion, he's received no further customer complaints.
Stock analyst David L. Gardner, who's been watching Red Roof for about three years, says he thinks Red Roof's brand was pretty strong even before the renovations.
"It kind of gives them a competitive positioning as the market tightens and new supply comes into the market," says Gardner, managing director of Baltimore stock brokerage firm Legg Mason Wood Walker.
In addition, Gardner says, the inn renewal program should help Red Roof's recent move into franchising, giving potential franchisees motivation to buy into the brand.
While Gardner sees Big Red as simply part of Red Roof's basic business strategy, Cash says he considered the project a risk.
"We were already a very successful chain," he says. "We were just trying to make sure we were back on top of the heap."
Outside looking in
By Joan Slattery Wall
Lodging industry watchers call Red Roof's inn renewal program a necessary investment that paid off.
There was no risk in the move, says Eric Belfrage, president of Columbus consulting and appraisal firm Lorms & Belfrage Inc. Rather, he says, it may have headed off problems.
"I think Red Roof has had very good consistency throughout their history, and I think that they did their inn renewal program just in time, before their quality suffered substantially," he says.
The chain's consistency will help as more supply is added in the budget- and economy-lodging segments, adds Belfrage, whose firm has conducted appraisals for Red Roof.
"It's just like McDonald's. You know what you're going to get when you go in there," he says.
Doug Lance, hospitality management program coordinator in Ohio State University's College of Human Ecology, points out that Red Roof's new look may give it a more competitive edge. In 1997, five hotels opened in the Columbus market, and 10 more are under construction this year. As many as 18 are planned through 1999, he notes. Of all those planned or built since 1997, nearly half would compete in the economy segment with Red Roof, which itself plans to open a new property downtown later this year.
"It appears to us that what they're doing is trying to reposition for new growth, new customers, and certainly a new average daily rate-which is money," Lance says of Red Roof's renewal program.
Red Roof's renovations became worth the investment when customers were more willing to pay higher room rates following the changes, adds David Sangree, director of hospitality consulting with US Realty Consultants Inc. in Columbus, another firm that does appraisals for Red Roof Inns.
"They did a very nice job with the renovation, so really the average traveler doesn't look at them and see that the property is 20 years old and the Fairfield Inn next to them is 2 years old," he says.
With a good existing base of properties, Red Roof may be more successful with its franchising efforts, too.
"The advantage here is no one would want to franchise a Red Roof Inn if all the other Red Roofs were in poor condition," Sangree says.
In fact, notes Michael Mahoney, director of hospitality consulting for Coopers & Lybrand LLP in Los Angeles, Red Roof would have taken a bigger risk had the chain opted not to overhaul its properties.
"You have to understand that guests migrate to newer or well-maintained properties," he says, "so therefore the risk of falling behind is more important."
Insurance risks of telecommuting
Just because some of your employees work from home doesn't mean you're not liable for them.
By Thomas W. Curry
For 11 million workers across the country, a daily commute might mean a few steps out the kitchen door and down a flight of stairs.
I'm one of those workers. Two and a half years ago, I officially joined the growing ranks of corporate telecommuters, turning in my office key for a house key.
My position as an outside salesman for Berwanger Overmyer Associates is a natural for telecommuting. Today's technology allows the flexibility of working from home while remaining in close contact with the corporate office. Phones, fax machines, computers with modems, voicemail and pagers allow home-based employees like myself to remain connected to clients without taking up corporate office square footage.
Working for the insurance industry and as a telecommuter, I am sensitive to the potential risks involved in moving employees from an office environment into their homes. My advice to employers is to view those potential risks prior to making telecommuting a standard practice.
Before I moved the first piece of office equipment to my home, we made sure the company's insurance policy extended coverage to me for any losses I incurred while conducting business in my home. Some of the more common liability issues for telecommuters include:
- Workers' compensation coverage. Consider how your company's premiums might be affected by a transition to telecommuting. The two biggest workers' comp concerns relate to ergonomics and the difficulty in drawing distinctions between those injuries related to work and those that are not.
- Protection for damage to the home office or equipment. Keep track of the employees' homeowners or renters insurance policy as well as any umbrella policies they might have in case of potential losses that might require contact with that insurer.
- Security of computer information and equipment stored in the home. Maintain an inventory of all home office equipment and furniture, along with model and serial numbers, in the event of a loss. This will help when filing a claim.
- Injuries to people who visit the home on business. Make sure your business policy coverage extends to your workers' home offices and train employees how to report accidents or losses.
- General office safety. Some companies make it a practice to visit each of their telecommuters annually to ensure compliance with a standard safety checklist. Inspections can include such items as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, proper use of extension cords and lighting, and ergonomically correct office furniture.
Employers should choose their telecommuting employees carefully. Not all people can adapt to such an independent work environment. For me, I can think of no better way to work. Bringing my office home has been the best business move I've ever made.
Thomas W. Curry is senior vice president for Berwanger Overmyer Associates in Upper Arlington.
Another man's gold
By Joan Slattery Wall
While networking traditionally has been a means for employees to find jobs, some Columbus employers find it's also a way to fill vacancies.
Each month, nearly 50 human-resources professionals, members of the Columbus Employment Assistance Network, meet to exchange résumés they have on file and information about positions they need to fill.
"We're a good source when companies are downsizing or have outplaced people," says Susan Diday, director of national account sales for Andrews Moving and Storage Co. in West Columbus.
Diday, who volunteers her time to coordinate the network, has been involved since it was formed in 1985 to help find work for the spouses of out-of-town job candidates local companies wished to hire.
Now, the network boasts more than 150 members, including businesses such as Nationwide Insurance Enterprises, Banc One Corp., King Thompson Realtors and Metatec Corp.; eight educational institutions; nine state agencies; and 16 nonprofit organizations. The group is not open to employment agencies.
"Right now the ratio is probably 50/50, openings to résumés," says Diday, adding that jobs range from administrative assistants to six-figure-salaried executives.
Julie Holbein, staffing specialist for Wendy's International Inc.'s Columbus division, says her company this year used the network to hire an operations division secretary who provides administrative support to district managers.
"It's a great way to find out who's out there and what jobs are in demand," Holbein says. "It's an exchange of recruiting ideas. When you find someone seeking to fill a similar position as you are, you say, 'How are you going about it?' I think it gives you some refreshing ideas that you can take back and use in your workplace."
The Columbus Employment Assistance Network meets at 8:15 a.m. the second Thursday of each month. For more information, contact Diday at 777-1515.