Wilson, who had left a prestigious post as president of Western Auto Parts America, a company that was purchased by competitor Advance Auto Parts, was no stranger to rolling up his sleeves and working hard. He received valuable tutelage under Sam Walton while working as hardlines merchandising director for Wal-Mart, where he was responsible for developing the retailer's hypermart project.
Following Wilson's arrival, Safelite filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 9, 2000, and Wilson and Barlow spent the next few months analyzing the company's operations and restructuring its debt. The company emerged from bankruptcy on Sept. 2, 2000, and by year's-end, the public firm went private.
That began a litany of changes, the next of which occurred in May 2001, when the company consolidated its operations into the Farmers Insurance building.
Barlow and Wilson also looked at more efficient ways to operate the company, including informally restructuring its operations into three separate divisions. But it wasn't until October 2003, when Barlow announced his retirement and Wilson's promotion to president and CEO, that this phase of restructuring became official.
As one of his first acts as CEO, Wilson formalized the three-division structure and renamed the company Safelite Group Inc. Today, barely five months later, he says restructuring at the $611 million company is complete.
"Our new organization better reflects the diversity of the operation more than the glass company did," says Wilson. "It communicates every aspect of our business in a clear fashion, externally and internally."
The organization incorporates the company's three business units -- its retail installation and wholesale warehousing division, its manufacturing operations and its strategic account services.
Wilson says the new vertical alignment is the company's greatest strength. Essentially, anything an automotive glass business can do, Wilson says, Safelite does as well. The company, the largest auto glass firm in the nation, manufactures 80 percent of the glass it uses for installations.
It operates a retail installation business and a wholesale business. And it coordinates claims and installations for more than 80 insurance companies.
Explains Wilson, "The new structure puts us in a better position for growth and lets each division better focus on their customers."
Even though the company loosely operated in these divisions before they were formalized, the structure provided Wilson with the opportunity to establish clear leaders of each division. For example, he created of the position of executive vice president and chief client officer of the strategic account services division, filled by Thomas Feeney, who managed the division's sales efforts.
"Knowing he was responsible for the entire division gave it more cohesiveness and has created better team work within it," says Wilson.
He says getting the right leadership in these important positions was no easy task.
"These were critical positions, and I had to make some difficult decisions," he says.
When the dust finally cleared, 15 people had been promoted, creating a feeling of goodwill throughout the company.
Now that the organizational overhaul is complete, Wilson is looking at other areas for improvement, including plans to grow each of the divisions.
"We have about 15 percent of the market on the fulfillment side," Wilson says. "That means 85 percent that we don't have. We have the biggest opportunity for growth there."
The insurance solutions division is also primed for expansion.
"The solutions side is a business in its infancy right now," says Wilson. "It can provide a lot of value to the industry, and it is growing by the fastest percentage."
To achieve that growth, Wilson says Safelite must continually improve efficiencies and convenience for customers. One way he's trying to achieve this is through a transition to more mobile-based solutions rather than simply bricks-and-mortar operations.
In the 1980s, the company operated small glass shops, and customers had to drive their vehicles to them for glass repair and replacement.
"Basically, you had a building, a manager and technicians to run the store," Wilson says.
Today, the company stores glass in its regional warehouses. Technicians pick up the glass and their orders and drive to the customer at work or home. That adds up to a lot of glass when you consider that Safelite's call center receives an average of 8 million calls a year, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some technicians even work from home, and the glass and orders are delivered to a nearby storage unit.
Part of Wilson's strategy involves making Safelite a cutting-edge business, and that means integrating new technologies into existing operations.
The company is piloting a handheld computer system in Columbus for its mobile units, which should improve technicians' speed and service to the customer. The unit includes a global positioning system (GPS) that helps drivers and dispatchers pinpoint arrival times.
"With a click, the dispatcher can see the speed the driver is going and tell the customer that he will be there in 10 minutes," says Wilson.
The system can save driving time because the dispatcher has specific information on where the car is parked and can call the driver and pass on the information.
"If the customer is at work, there could be 400 cars in the lot," Wilson says. "Now the dispatcher can call the customer and let him or her know when the driver will arrive, find out where the car is located, and have the customer ready and prepared when the driver arrives."
Other divisions are undergoing technological improvements as well. The company is converting its computer system from mainframe-based to server-based. Wilson has purchased and implemented new customer service management software and instituted Oracle-based software in its supply chain.
"The customer service software is the next step toward providing more customer satisfaction," he says. "It keeps a record of each phone call and issue, and we can relate to you in more specific terms. You'll know what to expect through your policy, and we can set up the appointment as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's one way of providing continual improvement in the processes we generate."
The new computer and software systems also help the company measure and track performance.
"Every technician and every location is measured by our customer service index," Wilson says. "We know very quickly which aren't performing to standards. It's a continual improvement process that wasn't there a few years ago."
Investing in people
Wilson isn't focusing the company's resources solely on technology. He says he never forgets that it's the employees who use the technology and who are best positioned to get the most out of the changes.
"I don't lose sight that the people side is very important," Wilson says. "They have to be familiar with it all so they can use these tools to the best advantage."
The company makes crucial capital investments in its people through Safelite University, an associate development and training program that is also intended to motivate employees.
Motivation, Wilson says, is an essential ingredient in the company's success. Accordingly, he measures every aspect of the business to assess whether the programs are having the intended effect.
"We have key performance indicators and score cards for every activity," he says. "We align those with our objectives and measure the checkpoints to make sure we're on track."
It all boils down to clarity, something Wilson feels the company lacked before he undertook the massive organizational changes.
"I need to make sure that our objectives are clearly understood and give people the right opportunities to make a contribution," says Wilson. "It takes the right settings to motivate people to make a contribution, and it's up to leadership to clearly define these settings for people to be successful."
And, Wilson adds, when people are successful, it translates into corporate success for Safelite.
How to reach: Safelite Glass Corp., (800) 800-2727 or www.safelite.com
The Wilson file
Born: Marshalltown, Iowa, 1951
Education: Bachelor of science degree, business administration, Drake University
First job: I grew up on a farm. Dad had me working when I was 10.
Career moves: Developed hypermart project at Wal-Mart; president of Western Auto Parts; executive vice president and COO Safelite Glass Corp.
What was your greatest challenge in business, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has always been the continual motivation of people. I have never overcome that challenge, but I don't think anyone does. You just keep working at it.
Past or present, whom do you admire most in business and why?
There are a lot of people that I admire. But I'll pick as No. 1 Sam Walton. He took average individuals and provided them with the tools and the motivation to make them successful.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
Make decisions, provide leadership, be balanced and maintain high ethics.
But with the improved economy comes another challenge for Ohio's businesses -- finding and maintaining qualified, highly educated workers to help companies compete for a bright future.
Nationwide, the shortage of workers with some college-level skills could reach more than 12 million by 2020, according to a 2002 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. And 70 percent of CEOs surveyed consider the difficulty of finding and retaining skilled workers a barrier to growth.
Ohio's business leaders know a highly motivated and well-educated work force is key to Ohio's ability to sustain itself economically and remain viable into the next decade. Fortunately, Ohio's workers -- especially working adults -- have taken notice of this need for additional education, and institutions of higher education are responding.
A recent editorial in The Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated a positive trend as it relates to a well-educated work force -- the number of Ohioans seeking higher education rose 8 percent at state colleges and universities from fall 1998 to fall 2002. During that same period, enrollment at proprietary schools soared by nearly 26 percent. And much of the enrollment at the proprietary, or private, schools comes from the working-adult population.
Yet Ohio is still struggling to be average when it comes to providing businesses with an educated work force. According to a study published by the Ohio Board of Regents in September 2000, Ohio trailed the national averages in all four categories of college educational attainment. As the nature of business evolves to adapt to technological advances and globalization, an educated local population becomes an increasingly important incentive to locate here or elsewhere.
Businesses don't come here for the weather. Until we can provide the kind of infrastructure that other emerging cities such as Charlotte and Austin do, Columbus and Ohio's other cities are at a disadvantage when it comes to those important decisions. That infrastructure includes the local talent pool.
Many working adults who go back to college to get a degree do it to broaden their job opportunities and increase their earnings potential. Employers look favorably upon candidates and employees who have been disciplined enough to return to college as a working adult to further their education. As a result, many adults currently in Ohio's work force are going back to school either to gain the educational skills required for a career change or to increase their value to their current employer.
And more education means lower unemployment and greater earnings for these workers, according to research by Sallie Mae, the nation's leading provider of education funding. In 2001, the unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for Americans who held a bachelor's degree and 2.1 percent for Americans who held a master's degree -- significantly lower than the 4.7 percent national unemployment rate for that year.
Residents who held a bachelor's degree earned a median income of $46,969 per year; those with a master's degree earned a median income of $56,589 per year. In contrast, median earnings for high school graduates without college degrees were $29,187 per year.
These statistics show that earning a bachelor's or master's degree greatly benefits individual workers. But Ohio employers will also benefit from having a more educated work force that will help prepare businesses for the inevitable and fundamental changes facing the state's economy. Eric Ziehlke is the associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 186,000 students at more than 139 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.
Today, while most universities have enjoyed steadily increasing enrollment, many schools are catering more and more to the nontraditional student - the working adult.
For a growing number of American college students, life happened and they've found themselves living in the real world before completing their formal education. In spite of - and in part because of - their professional and family obligations, many are finding a way to incorporate an education into their hectic lives.
In fact, 73 percent of the nation's undergraduate students today are considered nontraditional, including a substantial number of people enrolled part time while working full time. These figures are even higher for graduate-level students.
This demographic shift is consistent with the general aging of our society. For example, in Ohio, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2002 estimates, 43 percent of our population falls in the 25- to 54-year-old category. It is this large population that is the core of our work force, and it is also fast becoming the core of our nontraditional college students, those either trying to finish a bachelor's degree or working to earn a master's degree.
And the trend is gaining momentum nationwide. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment of 25- to 29-year-olds is expected to increase by 13 percent by 2012, while enrollment of those 30 to 34 years old is projected to increase by 10 percent during the same period. This 25- to 34-year-old age group will contribute to the projected total college enrollment increase of 15 percent from 2000 to 2012.
More of today's college students have incredible responsibilities competing for their attention while they attend their programs. That's why many colleges and universities that cater to these working-adult students must ensure that the learning modules and delivery systems used can help nontraditional students apply what they learn on the job, as well as enable them to earn their degree in a manner that fits into their work and life responsibilities.
How do these changes in higher education demographics affect business in Columbus? The students who are striving to achieve their academic goals are also the people who staff your businesses and organizations - the ones who make Ohio work. They are taking incredible initiative to do something that will help them improve themselves and the companies that employ them. These are valuable members of your organization and should be encouraged.
In business, it's vital to have a motivated, well-educated staff that can meet the challenges of our ever-changing world. The more educated, technology capable and real-world-trained a work force is, the better products and services it can deliver.
Ohio businesses that support their workers' educational desires through programs such as tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules, and institutions of higher learning that understand the need to deliver curriculum and learning systems targeted at this growing student population of working adults, will prosper and grow. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 175,000 students at more than 125 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or EricZiehlke@phoenix.edu.
Recently my sister and I placed a classified ad on a Web site seeking to sell a car we jointly own. The one and only response we have received to date has been a scam. The person e-mailed me expressing interest in buying the car as an anniversary gift for his wife.
The implicit message in that e-mail was that this was a person of financial substance. After trading e-mails a few times with more details and a history of the car, the person offered to buy it, sight unseen. The ad on the Web site does not include a photo.
He said in his e-mail that a client owed him $30,000, $11,000 more than our asking price of $19,000. He said he would have that client make the check out to me, but would I kindly send him the $11,000 difference so he could arrange to have the car shipped.
Red flags went off in my head and I didn't respond to this e-mail. After discussing it with several interested parties, including my sister, we agreed to sever contact with this person.
I have tried since then to do something about this potential con with little success. The Web site posts various warnings and disclaimers advising users to exercise the same common sense they would in other transactions, but it doesn't advise users that this type of scam could occur.
I also called the Columbus Police, who assured me that because a crime did not occur, neither they or the FBI (I was told it only deals with very high dollar amount scams) could do anything about it -- even though the detective I spoke with told me he had received a report of a similar nature a few months ago. That person did send the money to the "buyer."
So it falls back on us to always beware, and to spread the word. There are a lot of honest people out there, but the ones out to con us are using every opportunity they can.
When an employee is off the job due to a serious injury or illness, the impact is more than simply adding up medical bills and income replacement costs. That person's knowledge, experience and training are also lost, temporarily or permanently.
As the baby boom generation grows older, the average age of the overall work force also rises, suggesting that disability costs will increase as well. Since older employees usually have more tenure and higher salaries, their income-replacement costs are higher.
According to the National Association of Life Underwriters, between the ages of 35 and 65, three out of 10 working people will become disabled for 90 days or longer. And before age 65, one in five working people will become disabled for five years or more.
In addition, the Social Security Administration has estimated that disability costs will rise 37 percent in the next decade due to the growing number of workers ages 45 to 64.
Disability is a major business expense. A study by the Washington Business Group on Health (WBGH) found that the total cost of employee disability to employers is as much as 10 percent of company payrolls.
Some of the true costs involved in an extended absence of an employee include:
* Temporary help ($8-20/hour)
* Employment agencies ($1,000 and up)
* Overtime (two to three times the hourly rate)
* Newspaper ads ($100 and up)
* Continued benefit payments in the form of health, retirement, disability payments
Managing disability costs
Employers have traditionally managed workers' compensation, group health and Long Term Disability/Short Term Disability (LTD/STD) programs as independent employee benefits. But competitive pressures -- skilled labor shortages, cost containment and the growing number of disability claims from an aging work force -- are forcing the search for new solutions.
One is Integrated Disability Programs, which can be used to reduce costs, enhance productivity, promote employee health and safety, and simplify benefit management and administration. Two goals of an Integrated Disability Management program are to get a handle on total costs and get an injured employee back to work full-time and in good health.
Integrated Disability Management programs combine disability management and claims administration for occupational and nonoccupational injuries and illnesses to reduce employee absences and encourage a return-to-work mindset. Of the companies that integrate and measure disability management plans, about one-third report an average savings of 25 percent of their total disability tab.
There are several key features of any Integrated Disability Management Program. They include:
* Absence management/early intervention. Speeds awareness of disabilities, certifies disability lengths and initiates disability claim management.
* First notice of loss reporting. Allows employers to log workers' compensation injuries and assures the completion and filing of required state forms.
* PPO network. Provides access to a national preferred provider organization, claim repricing and provider directories.
* Utilization management. Provides control of utilization through use of an inpatient stay and outpatient surgery precertification programs, concurrent review and discharge verification.
* Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs). Confirms treatment plans and recommends treatment options when necessary.
* Medical case management. Uses case managers to reduce the duration of disabilities.
* Vocational rehabilitation. Provides assessment by a case manager of an employee's work history, transferable skills, employment factors and possible vocational choices to set the course of retraining an employee to enable him or her to return to the work force.
* Short Term Disability (STD) claims administration. Tracks and monitors STD claims and may include the creation of STD advice to pay or cut STD claim payments.
* Outcomes reporting. Reports regarding care progress and savings generated due to managed care interventions.
Employers need to know what impact disability and absence have on their productivity and bottom line. Look to your work force, identify those that aren't at work and case manage their disability without regard to its work-relatedness.
Integrated Disability Management programs encourage early intervention, provide opportunities for common case management across both occupational and nonoccupational claims and create an environment in which formal return-to-work programs can be implemented throughout the organization.
Now more than ever, companies need to return valuable, experienced employees to the workplace as soon as possible.
Carlton D. Rood, RN, BSN, CWCP, is branch manager for CorVel Corp., which provides case management, utilization management, medical bill review, group health and integrated disability management programs to employers. Reach him at (800) 275-6463, email@example.com or at www.corvel.com.
But the 23-year old Chan felt something was missing.
So he left the stock broker business and got a job as a laborer with a very small firm, Durable Slate Co..
"It was understood from the beginning that I was there to learn the business and take it to another level," says Chan.
That's exactly what he, his brother, John, and Ed De Long did. They acquired Durable Slate from its founder in 1986, and what started as a four-employee company is now a firm with more than 100 people and sales of $10 million.
Chan and his brother John, executive vice president, credit their success to doing business ethically and exceeding customer expectations, which led The Better Business Bureau to recognized= the company with its 2003 International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.
"If you conduct business the right way -- the way it's supposed to be done -- good things will come your way," says John Chan.
What hurdles have you overcome since taking over the company?
Michael Chan: I started as a laborer about 16 years ago when the company consisted of just a couple of guys and their helpers. I knew nothing about construction or managing a business. I went from making more than $10,000 a month to about $800 a month.
I saw that so many businesses were one or two dimensional. They either focused entirely on making money or they were totally customer-focused at the exclusion of everything else. After researching many businesses, I settled on the slate roofing business, a business that I felt I could learn and that had a lot of potential. So my challenges were learning the business and learning how to manage people.
Being Chinese, I also experienced some discrimination. But I worked my butt off, working 80 hours a week, listening and learning. I hired others that were like me -- they were interested in growing the company, and most of them had no construction or management experience.
What policies, initiatives or values led to the Better Business Bureau recognition?
Michael Chan: One of the things we strive to achieve is the Hubbard Management System.
In that system, there are four types of customer exchanges. The first is the kind that is criminal, where the customer pays the company, which does little to nothing in return. The second is a partial exchange. The company tries to get ahead by doing less than you say you are going to.
The third is doing exactly what you tell the customer you will do, and the fourth is giving the customer an abundance of what you promised. We try to live in the fourth exchange, not just with customers but throughout the company.
An example of this is, if we tell the customer that the job will take a week, then we try and finish it in five days. Or if we thought a repair job would take 25 slates and it takes 31, we use 31 without charging more. That's the culture we try to play up.
We have a few employees that do not want to function that way and leave the company, but we rarely get rid of anybody. Our quality control department checks everything, and if it isn't right, we fix it, at the job and with the employee, so it doesn't happen again.
How difficult is it in today's business environment to maintain business integrity?
Michael Chan: It's very difficult. Our sales come probably about 70 to 80 percent directly from customers and the other 20 to 30 percent from contractors. It's hard keeping up with where we've been in this business environment when others are having a difficult time selling.
We try to do our best -- sending the same number of people out when we're not making enough money --that's when integrity comes in. It's easy to do what's right when the money is there. You have to just maintain that level come hell or high water. It takes a lot of self-discipline.
It's expensive sometimes, but you can't look at it as an expense. If you want to survive long term, you have to be persistent, and that includes integrity.
A business won't survive long without integrity. It depends on how long the company wants to succeed. Enron was the seventh largest company in the world when it went bankrupt.
I didn't start out wanting to be the leader of the company, but out of necessity, became an owner. And conducting business ethically leads to a happy life -- it gives you day-to-day happiness.
What are the company's goals for the next five years?
John Chan: We set the company's goals in 1998, and we've little more than doubled our business in the last five years. We set our target sales and then set up numbers in each of our seven divisions to back them up.
We did a lot of long-term planning. We broke each goal down to calculate how each division could contribute to the goal -- how many jobs it would take, how many people -- all across the company. Each division knows what it has to do to achieve our goals.
How do you emphasize your business ethics with employees?
John Chan: We emphasize ethics in a number of ways. In all of our meetings with everyone, we go over everything pertinent to the company and the job.
We've shared a lot of stories about how ethics in business leads to success. We've seen case after case of high-profile companies that have done something underhanded to get ahead. They lose sight of their original intention.
Sometimes they just take a short cut. But a short cut often takes you down the wrong path and leads to problems. We have courses offered in a classroom setting. We train employees in roofing, safety, orientation to the business, and we have a course in ethics.
It is a challenge when I hire someone that isn't used to operating that way. It is a challenge instilling in newer guys that are sometimes used to looking for ways to give less to the customer rather than more. That's what we run up against.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry, and how have they affected the company?
John Chan: The biggest changes I've seen are mainly on the legal front. OSHA regulations are much stiffer than they were 10 years ago. That's something that seems like it hurts us sometimes.
Recently, we went out and broke down a job for an insurance company. They turned us down because we needed to use scaffolding. The person I dealt with asked us if we couldn't just use big ladders, but it was against OSHA regulations. He said the other company he asked about the job would go without them, and he went with them.
But we didn't want to risk our company or our guys. I've found that we might lose one job, but cutting corners comes back to bite you later. If you conduct business the right way -- the way it's supposed to be done -- good things will come your way. How to reach: Durable Slate Co., (800) 666-7445 or www.durableslate.com
The economic slowdown has led to a dramatic shortfall in tax revenue, at precisely the same time that higher education finds itself in competition for public funds with other equally critical social needs. The growth of both school-age and aging populations, an increasing number of low-income families requiring assistance and the unexpected costs of providing for homeland security, along with other factors, presage difficult decisions for those making the cuts and those facing them.
A few statistics bring the picture into sharper focus:
* Colleges and universities are bracing for a wave of students to hit campuses over the next decade. The surge, propelled by an upturn in the number of births throughout the 1980s, will produce the largest high school and college enrollments in U. S. history.
* 80 percent of post-secondary students in Ohio are enrolled in public institutions.
* Public colleges continue to become less affordable. Sixteen states have increased tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities by more than 10 percent; Ohio raised tuition by 17 percent.
The Catch-22 is that we have to cut budgets at precisely the time we can't afford to. As new technologies change the way we live and work, businesses need workers with a higher level of knowledge and skills.
Further, the recent economic downturn led major sectors of the economy to restructure. Although an economic recovery appears to be underway, thousands of displaced workers need retraining.
And those who kept their jobs have to gain new knowledge and skills just to help their companies -- and themselves -- survive.
Education is the best way to retrain and reposition our work force so we can navigate these rapids and move toward long-term, stable prosperity. Ohio and many other states will need to adopt a strategic approach that recognizes all educational resources within the context of their ability to serve distinct populations according to their needs.
As public institutions prepare to handle the influx of high school graduates and maintain service levels on decreased budgets, private institutions must rise to the occasion and assist in meeting the state's needs.
Adults in Greater Columbus have tremendous educational opportunities in the private sector. Several Columbus-based institutions, including Franklin, Capital and Ohio Dominican universities, and Otterbein College, offer adult-centered programs. Others, including Ashland and Mount Vernon Nazarene universities, have an established presence with similar programs.
The University of Phoenix and DeVry University have always focused on the specialized needs of the business community and operate campuses in Columbus, as well. All of these institutions provide a much-needed service to the community, and for-profit universities don't demand a share of scarce state funds. Instead, they contribute back to the tax base of the state.
As our legislators continue to battle for funds to meet all of the state's needs, a number of quality private, for-profit institutions stand ready to assist by providing relevant and quality education within the context of the world of work. Their innovative teaching and learning processes enable them to meet the unique needs of adult students without placing further burden on the taxpayers.
A blended solution, leveraging the best of the public and private sector, will serve as the best model for meeting the educational needs of the future.
Eric Ziehlke is the associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 175,000 students at more than 125 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.
People don't take the time to study the candidates or the issues, and they cast their votes based on name recognition alone. Too often, candidates spend a lot of money on a campaign based on telling people what they want to hear in order to win the election.
What does this have to do with you? Everything. Each of us needs to stand up and be counted. We have the ability to make a difference. We need to demand more from our politicians than a good marketing strategy that tells us what we want to hear.
Several years ago, I wrote a column about potentially starting our own Political Action Committee. After giving this strong consideration, we decided not to. The purpose would have been to help our readers make informed decisions and promote a pro-business agenda. A PAC would have provided more financial flexibility and more political clout than individual campaign donations.
A PAC can be a great tool if you are on the right side of an issue backed by an influential politician. However, if you are not on the same side, it is very difficult to be heard, even with the help of the PAC.
How does your vote count when there are PACs that appear to have a lot more influence than your single vote? The answer is that every vote counts.
It doesn't take the formation of a PAC to accomplish our goals. We all need to take responsibility for ourselves to be good citizens. The collective votes of the business community have the same effect as a PAC.
There will come a time when money and a good marketing plan will not do the job. We need to find a way to get more people involved in politics, particularly in leadership positions.
The business community has a much greater responsibility than our own personal agendas. We must stand up and encourage the people in our circles to help make a difference and look out for the majority, or business will suffer.
Take action to improve the political landscape in this country. Get involved and use your vote wisely, because one vote -- your vote -- can make a difference.
But watch out for the pitfalls. The tax benefits you receive can depend on a number of factors.
"Hiring family members offers a good opportunity to reduce the business owner's income tax," says Joseph Saloom, tax partner at Crowe Chizek's Columbus office.
Children under 14 who earn income from an outside job or investments are taxed at the adult rate. But when you hire and pay your child out of your business, that income is subject to a lower children's rate.
Saloom says hiring children under 18 also provides the opportunity to reduce payroll and self-employment taxes.
"Children under 18 are not considered self-employed if paid by the parents," Saloom says.
The child does not have to pay the 15.3 percent Social Security tax, and neither does the parent. But these benefits only apply when the company is solely owned by one or both parents; any type of corporation must pay Social Security taxes.
Paying a spouse out of your business can help him or her plan for retirement.
"The spouse can take those earnings and put them in an IRA," Saloom says.
But if the spouse is considered a highly compensated employee, there are limits on how much of that income can be put toward retirement, says Tracy Kaufman, client service representative with Rea & Associates Inc. Employees are considered highly compensated if they paid $80,000 a year or more, or own 5 percent or more of the company.
If you hire your spouse and he or she has family health insurance coverage, the entire premium is tax deductible, say Saloom and Kaufman. Other items, including travel expenses incurred by the spouse, are also tax deductible.
Again, however, there are exceptions. The spouse of someone who owns more than 2 percent of S Corporation stock is also treated as someone who owns more than 2 percent, and is therefore unable to take the benefit deductions.
Even aunts, uncles and other family members outside the nuclear family can get into the act, says Saloom.
"It's very popular right now to offer directorships of corporations to aunts, uncles and cousins," he says. "They then have the opportunity to receive income to fund a retirement vehicle, typically a Keogh plan, which is a retirement fund for self-employment income." How to reach: Crowe Chizek, (614) 469-0001; Rea & Associates, (614) 889-8725
And Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization that inspires and sparks the entrepreneurial spirit in the country's youths, is working to promote ethical business practices as well. The organization polled 624 teens between the ages of 13 and 18, and the results were alarming: 33 percent said they would act unethically to get ahead or to make more money if there were no chance of getting caught.
That's why JA is partnering with accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to promote business ethics among young people, starting with elementary school students. It also promotes business ethics by providing role models -- its annual Hall of Fame honorees.
This year's laureates are business leaders who not only demonstrate business savvy, but also how running a business ethically can lead to success. They have overcome obstacles and challenges to succeed in tough, competitive industries, and are true role models for the region's young people.
Founder and executive chairman
Jim Grote discovered that the pizza business was in his blood while working part-time at one pizza shop, then another, in high school and in college.
His hard work, diligence and enjoyment of the job inspired the owners of both shops to offer him first dibs on the stores when they decided to sell. In the first instance, Grote's father persuaded him to pursue his education instead.
But he couldn't pass up the second opportunity, and with borrowed money, he purchased the first Donatos Pizza when he was a sophomore in college. He says he learned many things from his mentors -- his father, an owner of the first pizza shop and his father-in-law -- and one of them was the value of treating everyone in the business, from customers to vendors, fairly.
"The bottom line is to treat others how you'd like to be treated," Grote says. "That's a phrase that is overused. You have to pick apart its meaning to get its real value."
Grote says it means putting yourself in the other person's shoes.
"That means you don't pat a 10-year-old on the head," he says. "Kids like to be listened to and have input."
Grote says this rule applies even to competitors.
"Don't trash them," he says. "You wouldn't want to be treated like that."
Grote says having a good mentor is important in business for several reasons.
"For one, it keeps you from having to reinvent the wheel," he says. "It's great to have someone to prevent you from making mistakes that have already been made."
And modeling your business character after that of a mentor with integrity sets the stage for how you'll do business in the future.
"No matter what the mechanics of the business you're in, the context of the business comes from the character you develop," he says. "If you stick to your principles and treat people right, you'll have a business you can be proud of."
Chairman and CEO
Freight Service Inc. and United Carriers Corp.
In 1929, an architectural engineering graduate named Howard LeFevre joined the work force.
That was also the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
He got a job with a construction firm but within a few years, LeFevre found himself, like many others, seeking work wherever he could get it.
"I became involved in the trucking industry and enjoyed it," says LeFevre. "And I was willing to start over at the bottom."
By 1947, LeFevre was operating his own successful freight company in Newark, and the city has been his home ever since.
He says he owes a lot to his mentor, Everett Reese, who was president of Park National Bank when LeFevre first moved his business to Newark.
"I didn't know anybody in Newark but I had a contract with Owens Corning," he says. "Everett was quite a community-minded citizen. He guided me into activities that allowed me to help my community and business."
These gave him confidence in his leadership abilities, and as his confidence grew, so did his business.
"My business wasn't dependent on my community activities," he says. "But your own leadership role gives you a feeling of accomplishment."
LeFevre says it's important for mentors to show future business owners how to conduct business with honesty.
"They need to know how to become role models or guides for their employees," he says. "And they need to understand the importance of following their principles and being honest in their relationships with customers and employees."
LeFevre says he never abandoned his early love for architecture, and his success in the freight industry has enabled him to be involved in projects that reflect his architectural interests.
"I've helped in the restoration of some buildings in Newark," he says. "And I was part of The Ohio State University alumni group that established the Newark campus here."
He says the OSU Newark campus is one of the finest things to happen to the community.
"We had 5,000 students attending the campus this fall," he says. "And we started with 80 attending evening classes in 1978."
David Milenthal, who started his business as a one-man operation in 1974 and today leads a 300-employee firm, is lucky to have had three outstanding mentors.
"Gene Hameroff, who founded the agency in 1954, taught me the basic principles of business," Milenthal says.
Milenthal considers his partner Paula Spence his second mentor.
"She taught me the importance of communication," Milenthal says. "It is an integral part of career growth."
Former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste is his third mentor.
"He taught me a lot about strategy, creativity and public service," he says.
Milenthal says the key to a successful mentoring relationship is trust.
"If you truly trust your mentor and listen carefully, the relationship will help you," he says. "A mentor can help you build a successful network."
But it's not just the person being mentored who benefits, says Milenthal.
"Mentoring brings you personal fulfillment," he says. "You can pass on a legacy. Mentor someone who will, in turn, become a mentor to someone else."
He cites Spence as an example of a good mentor.
"Paula Spence has mentored many people," he says. "To her, teaching others was what she considered the most fulfilling thing she did. She has passed down to other mentors her knowledge and principles."
Family support and advice are also important.
"I attribute my success to both of my parents, my wife and the mentoring of three people," he says. "Many of the things I've been able to achieve have been a result of the mentoring of those three people and my wife."
He says the advice you receive from your spouse should stand the test of time.
"As you become more successful, your wife will give you the must truthful advice," he says. "She won't sugarcoat it." How to reach: Junior Achievement, (614) 771-9903